Go-ahead for £175m West Cumbria coal mining operation

The proposals for Woodhouse Colliery

Mining could begin in West Cumbria within two years after the Government declined to call in plans for a £175m scheme.

The Government has agreed with Cumbria County Council’s unanimous decision to approve the planning application for the project and West Cumbria Mining (WCM) said it can now start the process of delivering on its plan to build one of the most modern mines in the world.

It said it will supply the UK and international steel industry, deliver around 500 local jobs and deliver a first-class supply chain across the county.

Plans for the Woodhouse Colliery were approved by the local council in May but were subject to further scrutiny by the Government. However, the proposals have now been sanctioned and construction work is expected to start in early 2020, with deep coal mining starting 24 months later.

Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale who called on the Government to call in the plans, described the news the plans had been passed as “a kick in the teeth in the fight to tackle climate change”.

He said: “Cumbria has so many renewable resources to provide energy – water, wind and solar – and we should most definitely not be taking the backwards step of opening a new coal mine.”

WCM said it expects to extract around 2.5 million tonnes of high quality coal.

Mined coal will be transported by a buried 2.2km-long conveyor to a train loading facility, with its own dedicated siding, on the Cumbria Coast railway line.

Woodhouse Colliery will be located on brownfield land.

WMC said in developing its plan it paid a lot of attention to the mine design and appearance to ensure that it is not only appropriate for the location, but also that the design helps prevent noise, dust and light pollution.

The buildings have been designed to look very different to traditional mining sites of the past and are low level, buried or visually screened to reduce impacts to an absolute minimum.

The domed design of the fully enclosed structures is a more modern and innovative approach and make them more unobtrusive in their environment.

The coal will be processed in a plant which is a ‘building within a building’ to minimise noise, dust and light impact.

This preparation plant will include coverage storage of coal from the mine as well as coal product after washing.

The proposed designs were presented to the local community at a series of public events between 2014 and 2018.

WCM said it listened to comments and drew on this feedback in the creation of its final plans, which were submitted to Cumbria County Council in May 2017.

Some of the revisions to the original designs following on from feedback received included moves to reduce the visual impact to a minimum, re-arranging the layout of the site to minimise noise, reducing the overall height of the buildings, enclosing the mine drifts to reduce surface noise, dust and light pollution, creation of a public park area to the north of the site, and a footpath connecting High Road to the coastal path.

WCM has been developing its plans since 2014. It said: “Throughout the development of our plans we have undertaken an extensive programme of coal exploration, both onshore and offshore, and this proved the presence of high quality steel-making coal with very attractive properties including extremely low ash and phosphorus.”

It added: “We anticipate that site work will commence in early 2020, with coal production commencing around 24-months from the start of construction.”

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