The government is set to say if it’s granting planning permission for a new coal mine. It has repeatedly delayed making the decision. However, Michael Gove is supposed to announce the outcome by Thursday 8 December. Already, campaign groups are preparing for the government to approve it.
Whitehaven: arguments for and against
As the PR firm Edie wrote:
The Government was due to make a planning decision in July 2022 on West Cumbria Mining’s proposals for a new deep coal mine in Whitehaven. Cumbria County Council approved the plans in October 2020 and, for several months, the Government resisted calls to intervene with that decision. But, ultimately, a public inquiry was ordered in March 2021 with the mine’s compatibility with national and international climate targets being the key sticking point.
The inquiry officially closed late last year and the Government had originally promised to make a final planning decision on or before 7 July.
That date was then pushed back again and was expected to be made… just days prior to COP27 in Egypt.
However, Friends of the Earth received a letter from the government confirming [another] delay. The environmental charity claim that a decision is now due “on or before 8 December 2022”.
Politicians in favour of the Whitehaven mine argue it would create jobs. Some, like local Tory mayor Mike Starkie, go further. He says it fits with the government’s levelling up agenda, that it would be “the most environmentally efficient mine in the world”, and that the mine would support the UK steel industry. However, others disagree. For example, Tory MP and former COP26 president Alok Sharma says that West Cumbria Mining would export most of the coal the Whitehaven mine would produce. He also claims parts of the UK steel industry have already said the coal the mine would produce is no good for them. Of course, the larger question here is whether the UK should even be considering opening another coal mine in the first place because of the climate crisis, and coal’s highly impactful effect on global warming as well as the environment.
A “serious mistake”
As the Canary previously reported, the chair of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) – lord Deben – said the mine would give a “negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities”. He noted that Whitehaven:
will increase global emissions and have an appreciable impact on the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets. The mine is projected to increase UK emissions by 0.4Mt (megatonnes) of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) per year. This is greater than the level of annual emissions we have projected from all open UK coal mines to 2050.
Meanwhile, former National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) scientist James Hansen said the Whitehaven mine would be:
in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature.
However, there are more reasons than that to object to the project. For example, as campaign group Coal Action Network exposed, the company financing West Cumbria Mining’s Whitehaven mine project is EMR Capital Investment (No3b) Pte Ltd. The company seems to be a tax-avoider, having registered one of its offices in the Cayman Islands. Moreover, Coal Action Network claims that EMR Capital only invests in projects for a few years, then sells them on.
So, it seems there are no good reasons for the government to approve the Whitehaven mine. That’s why Coal Action Network want people to get involved.
Keep Whitehaven coal in the ground
The group told the Canary that it wants people to act when Gove announces the decision. It said:
Make a sign with your reaction to the news – that might be “dismayed” or “the fight’s not over” (because it’s not!) etc.
Take a selfie with your sign or get friends/ family/ colleagues in the photo with you.
Tweet the photo and a caption. This could be “I reject @luhc approval of the Whitehaven coal mine – we need to #StopCoal now. @CoalActionUK”. Tag your contacts into the photo.
It seems ridiculous that after leading COP26 and banning fracking, the government would even consider signing off on the Whitehaven mine. However, anything is possible with the Tories. So, the decision on Whitehaven will be a telling insight into their actual commitment to stopping the climate catastrophe.
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