Cumbria Council gives go-ahead to new coal mine project

Aerian CGI of the new Woodhouse Colliery mine site.

Cumbria County Council (CCC) has formally granted planning approval to West Cumbria Mining (WCM) to develop its metallurgical coal project, known as Woodhouse Colliery, a new underground mine, located on a brownfield site, to the south west of Whitehaven in West Cumbria.

Since 2014, the company has been working on its plans to develop a 21st century mine which has included careful consideration about the design of the surface infrastructure to minimise any potential impact from noise, dust and light. A considerable number of environmental and ecological surveys have been completed, alongside a programme of coal exploration, both onshore and offshore which has proven the presence of high-quality coal for use in the steel industry.

Once construction of the mine is completed and Woodhouse Colliery moves into the operational phase, the company plans to extract and process around 2.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year to supply into UK and European steel-making coal plants, which currently import around 45 million tonnes per annum from USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.

As is usual with projects of this nature, as part of planning approval being granted, CCC has set out extensive planning conditions which WCM need to meet to enable the company to move forward to the next phases of the development of the project. Over the coming months, WCM will continue to work with CCC to finalise and discharge those conditions, which will enable the project to progress to the pre-construction and construction phases. It is anticipated that site work will start before the end of 2019, with coal production commencing around two years from the start of construction.

Mark Kirkbride, CEO of West Cumbria Mining, said: “Today marks a very important milestone in our journey to develop a world class mine in Cumbria and is the culmination of five years of hard work and determination by the WCM team to realise our vision.

“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment. I am proud to be part of something which will have such a positive impact on the local community and economy as well as the long-term financial benefits the mine will bring to the UK.

“We now look forward to moving towards the construction of Woodhouse Colliery and harnessing the extensive mining history and knowledge in West Cumbria to operate a state-of-the-art mine, including the highest levels of health and safety and technology to ultimately realise our vision of becoming a leading European producer of high-quality metallurgical coal for steel making.”

The news was welcomed by lobby group, the Northern Powerhouse Partnership. Its director, Henri Murison, said: “The businesses of West Cumbria, and the whole Northern Powerhouse, have been great supporters of this project. I would like to pay tribute to Mark Kirkbride and his team as well as Copeland Borough Council, who have been steadfast in their perseverance in securing this scheme. It will generate significant employment and help to improve the prosperity of local communities.

“This project will mean progress is needed to improve freight links on the rail line to Carlisle to allow export from the Tees to steel producers in Europe and the UK. As Northern Powerhouse Partnership we are full supporters of this scheme and the wider Northern transport priority to better connect the energy coast."

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