Approving new coal mine is a ‘common sense decision’, says education secretary
By Politics.co.uk staff
The government has announced that the UK will build its first new coal mine for three decades. The Woodhouse Colliery project, near Whitehaven, was approved on Wednesday night by levelling-up secretary Michael Gove, who said the coal will be used for the production of steel and not for power generation.
The decision prompted an immediate backlash and it is expected to spark a legal challenge from environmentalists.
A wave of objections following the mine’s approval by the county council in 2020 resulted in it being “called in” last year for a final decision by the levelling up secretary.
On Thursday morning, education secretary Gillian Keegan labelled the new mine a “common sense decision”. She told GB News: “Of course people are worried about the signalling but it is still our intent to phase out coal and this is a very, very specific industrial use just to produce steel”.
Asked if the decision represented a step backwards, she continued: “This has actually been talked about for a long time. There is a lot of local support, it has been passed by the Labour council, by three planning inspectors, and you know this is a common sense decision.
“It is in the north, it is going to bring brilliant jobs to that area and as I say there is a lot of local support around Whitehaven… for this mine.”
The new mine has been under development by West Cumbria Mining since 2014 and it will be the first deep pit to open in England since 1986. It is projected to increase UK greenhouse gas emissions by 0.4 million tonnes a year, the equivalent of around 200,000 cars, according to analysis by think tank Green Alliance.
The government’s own independent adviser on climate change has also condemned the decision, which will allow extraction of the fossil fuel until 2049.
Chair of the climate change committee and former Conservative minister Lord Deben said it would undermine UK efforts to reach net zero and “diminish” the country’s global influence on carbon.
He added: “This decision grows global emissions and undermines UK efforts to achieve net zero.
“It runs counter to the UK’s stated aims as Cop26 president and sends entirely the wrong signal to other countries about the UK’s climate priorities. The UK’s hard-fought global influence on climate is diminished by today’s decision”.
The developers say it will create 500 jobs providing coking coal for the steel-making industry, an industry which has previously been heavily dependent on Russia.
Shadow climate change secretary Ed Miliband said Rishi Sunak had been exposed as a “fossil fuel PM in a renewable age”, who had “given up on all pretence of climate leadership”.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, called it a “climate-busting, backward-looking, business-wrecking, stranded asset coal mine”, when the country needed a “a clean, green industrial strategy fit for the future”.
Alok Sharma MP, who led the COP26 climate talks in Glasgow last year, last week called it a “backward step” for both the UK’s own climate action and its international reputation.
Sharma’s COP presidency saw the UK lobby other countries to “consign coal to history”.
During COP27, held in Egypt last month, prime minister Rishi Sunak promised to make the UK a “clean energy superpower”.