New coal mine could create 500 jobs

A MINING firm has raised nearly £15m to open a new coal mine in Whitehaven which could employ 500 staff.

West Cumbria Mining aims to open a mine next to the former Haig Colliery and extract coking coal which is used in the steel making industry.

The company, which has been backed by private investors, believes there are more than 750 million tonnes of coking coal across an area of some 200 square kilometres.

The coal is in three main seams. Most of it is offshore and was mined historically at Haig which operated from 1914 until it closed in 1986.

Chief executive Mark Kirkbride said: “The company is delighted to announce the completion of financing for its Whitehaven Coking Coal Project. This is testament to the strong fundamentals of the project and the potential for this to become the next substantial, low cost, coking coal mining operation in the UK.

“The UK is currently a substantial net importer of coking coal for industrial use, the majority of which is sourced from Australia and the USA. It therefore makes economic sense to source available coking coal on our own shores if sufficient amounts can be accessed and mined economically. Europe is also a major net importer of coking coal which provides another attractive market on the project’s doorstep.

“This is a new chapter in the story of the UK coal mining industry. The bulk of the industry has historically been focused on thermal coal which is used in coal-fired power stations to generate electricity and is generally available in abundance around the world – as a result it commands a lower market price. Coking coal is different and offers significant scale for economic viability.”

He added: “We’re looking forward to working with the local authorities and communities as the project develops. West Cumbria has a strong mining heritage. Whilst it’s too early to talk about specific details, we believe that mining has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to the local area in the future, including high quality new jobs. We’re committed to maximising local resources and skills and recruiting locally wherever possible.”

West Cumbria Mining said it will now start to discuss the project with local authorities and residents to explain its plans. It is aiming to mine around three million tonnes of coking coal a year.