The China Connection: First Deep Coal Mine in The UK for 30 Years

Cumbrian Coal Mine
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Follow the Cumbrian Coal Mine money….all the way to China

Back in 2015 the Champagne glasses were clinking in The Four Seasons, a Chinese restaurant in Whitehaven, Cumbria.  West Cumbria Mining was “happily toasting the recent visit to the UK of Chinese premier Xi Jinping.” As well they might. Over £14m of funding for the development has come from EMR Capital Resources Fund, an Australian-managed private equity fund. Managed by Owen Hegarty and Jason Chang, pride of place in the head office is a photo of “an Australian politician at the signing of an agreement between EMR and a bank in China”. 


Why China, through EMR Capital, would want to put money into a coal mine in the UK is unfathomable. In 2015, when West Cumbria Mining were toasting the visit of Xi Jinping, the Chinese people were protesting against a coal-fired plant at Heyuan “around 10,000 Chinese residents of Heyuan in north-eastern Guangdong took to the streets on Sunday (12 April) to protest against (the expansion of ) a coal-fired power plant in the region.” This is because the air and water in the region was already heavily polluted. The incidences of  inhuman brutality by the Chinese regime to protestors is well documented but rarely mentioned in the new era of globalisation at any cost.

As well as protesting against new coal, existing mining operations are withholding wages for their miners as there is overcapacity in the Chinese market and in a bid to solve this mines have been closed down. Thousands of coal miners have been on the streets protesting about unpaid wages

So why on earth would China want to invest in coal in the UK? There is the strategic importance of coal mining under the Irish Seat at St Bees: it is only 8km from Sellafield but that is paranoid thinking.  Then there is the prestigious St Bees school, the oldest (?) in the UK founded in 1583 which unaccountably closed in 2015 (when West Cumbria Mining were chinking their Champagne glasses). Guess what happened next? St Bees school has been “saved” by Shenzhen International, a mega Chinese organisation which seems to have fingers in all sorts of pies.

It is madness and the Chinese people are absolutely right to be protesting on the streets in their tens of thousands about new coal mines opening up in their country.

So what’s happening in Cumbria?

Well, there is a statue in Whitehaven – a poignant memorial to coal miners who lost their lives. “End of an Era”, it’s called. Only apparently it isn’t.

Cumbrian Coal Mine

Now there is the plan by West Cumbria Mining (backed by EMR Capital) to expand the dangerous Whitehaven mines with undersea coal mining. There has been lots of greenwashing heaped on the plan by West Cumbria Mining to reopen Whitehaven coal mine, the most gaseous, dangerous pit in the Kingdom.  In 1815, Sir Humphrey Davy’s invention of the miner’s safety lamp was first tested in Whitehaven Coking Coal Mine because of its reputation for “firedamp” (methane) and fatal explosions.

That was in the pre-atomic age. Now in the same area, just eight kilometres away, we have the most dangerous nuclear site in the world: Sellafield. Windscale – later renamed Sellafield is too close to the proposed site.

What people are saying

“We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.” National Trust

“The application site is in proximity (Solway Firth 1.5km) to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features.” Natural England

“The impact of any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine heritage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact ..The history of contamination of watercourses in the areas raises concerns for some local residents in relation to the impact of the development on the complex hydrology of the area.” Colourful Coast Partnership

“Our position is to object to the proposed development on the grounds of the adverse impact on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity.” Environment Agency

“It is clear that this is a very large mine, with a very long life span…of 20-50 years and a peak of 2.8 million tonnes a year. Assuming a 40-year life (following construction), and an average of 2 million tonnes a year, that is a total production of 80 million tonnes, which will emit around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The level of emissions and proposed life-time of the mine is of major concern….We would also query whether or not there has been robust enough analysis of the potential for seismicity (and subsidence) relating to well-known nuclear facilities in the wider area, including Sellafield and proposed new facility at Moorside? What potential is there for seismicity to effect these and other facilities (including the low level waste repository at Drigg) and the possible high level waste radioactive waste facility which has been proposed in West Cumbria for some time.” Friends of the Earth

“The application should be rejected because it is not in the national interest. From reviewing the documents submitted by West Cumbria Mining it is clear that the intention is to export the coal to Europe and Asia…The application to mine is too close to the Sellafield nuclear site and the proposal for another nuclear power station at Moorside. Underground mining can have a significant impact on the surrounding areas, recently a coking coal mine in Russia triggered an earthquake.” Coal Action Network

Cumbrian Coal Mine

Test Drilling by West Cumbria Mining off St Bees


Cumbrian Coal Mine

Fulmar – photo by Dorothy Bennett

Just some of the “Star Species” found in this Heritage Coast and Marine Conservation Zone are listed by the RSPB as: Fulmar, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill and so many more that would be impacted on by the plan for a new coal mine with possible subsidence of the Irish Sea bed impacting on food sources such as sandeels (and not to mention disturbing decades of Sellafield discharges which have settled there).

There are so many reasons to oppose this coal mine plan. That is why we are campaigning hard to stop the plan.

Take action

Specialist law firm, Leigh Day have agreed to help which is amazing.  So we are raising funds for the cost for counsel to provide a written Opinion on Potential Grounds for Judicial Review.  This is to ensure that we will still have a chance of stopping the coal mine plan should Cumbria County Council ignore the advice of Natural England, the National Trust, Coal Action Network, the Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Friends of the Earth and others and rubberstamp the plan.  

People can get involved in many ways. You can write to the leader of Cumbria County Council and let him know you oppose the plan by West Cumbria Mining for the new Woodhouse Colliery (planning application number 4/17/9007).

Cumbria County Council is scheduled to be making a decision on the 24 of January, 2018.  The decision will be taken by the Development Control Committee.  Their contact details are here . The more letters they get the better. If you feel you can speak in opposition to the plan on the 24 of January then please do, whether as an individual or as a member of a group.  The meeting is open to public participation and you can register to speak by contacting Cumbria County Council.

We need to stop this diabolic plan for a new coal mine dangerously near Sellafield, if you can help in any way either by donation or by action then the better chance we have.

If you can help, you will be making history in the battle to stop the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  All donations no matter how small will be used directly to challenge West Cumbria Mining’s diabolic plan. Pledges can be made here.

There will be a protest walk on 28 October. It is a challenging walk along the cliff tops from Whitehaven to St Bees – all welcome. Meet at The Beacon 10.30 (setting off at 11am). Even if you cannot do the walk there will be a photo opportunity to show opposition to this diabolic coal mine plan. More information here.






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