Today, 19th March 2019, Cumbria County Council (CCC) has formally granted planning approval to West Cumbria Mining (WCM) to develop its Metallurgical Coal Project, which will be 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 thought and 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 normal with projects of this nature, as part of planning approval being granted, CCC has set-out extensive planning conditions which WCM needs 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 24-months from the start of construction.
Commenting, 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.”
Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland said: “I spoke in favour of the plans at today’s Cumbria County Council planning meeting and I wholeheartedly welcome the fact that the West Cumbria Mining development has now been unanimously approved.
“I have discussed and engaged with local people on the topic of the mine on a wide number of occasions, with a consistently high level of support for the new mine plan from all of these people. They want jobs for their families and children, with security and opportunities. Something that we desperately need for the future of Copeland and West Cumbria.
“As a result, I am fully supportive of the mine. This is also the case with Copeland Borough Council, who have provided feedback on the planning consultation with a strong recommendation to approve the planning application for the project.
“The support from Copeland Council, who have a range of experts with extensive knowledge of the local area and sites which West Cumbria Mining are seeking to develop, clearly suggests that they believe that the mine would not have negative impacts and fits within the development plans of the area.
“One of the key comments which I am aware of from within the Copeland senior management team, who have seen West Cumbria Mining at work since 2014, is that they consider West Cumbria Mining to be a model developer who have raised the bar in terms of how companies should undertake public and stakeholder engagement. I would completely support this view from all of my interaction with the WCM team to date.
“Copeland has a very wide range of socio-economic areas, with some very poor districts next to the proposed mine location and some very high levels of child poverty and deprivation.
“The area has been almost completely reliant on the nuclear industry for decades, but with the current changes which Sellafield are implementing in terms of a significant reduction in jobs and the loss of NuGen’s Moorside project, the need for diversification to other industries is apparent.
“As such, it is imperative for the survival and economic prosperity of Copeland, Allerdale and Barrow that diversification is supported in terms of new projects, long term job creation and wealth coming back into the local economy.
“The mine offers the opportunity for such diversification, including the ability to employ semi-skilled people who in the past have not been able to secure work in the nuclear industry, the potential for apprenticeships and re-training, together with the mine’s commitment to recruit as many people from the local area as possible. These will all have significant benefits to the local area beyond the financial aspects.
“I do not agree at all with the sensationalised views of the opposition groups who seem to be intent on trying to stop any future opportunities for the people of West Cumbria. Once again it seems that people from outside Copeland and West Cumbria know better than those who live within it and it would be very unjust, and highly controversial, if the committee considered those views to carry any weight in this case.
“I really cannot see how the new mine, with all of the controls, planning conditions and regulations which will be imposed upon it, as with any new development, could result in the negative impacts claimed.
“Without private development such as that being promoted by West Cumbria Mining, the future for Copeland and Cumbria, as a whole, looks very bleak.
“I have spoken to many other businesses locally, including Sellafield and they are all in support of this project and can see the long term benefits that West Cumbria Mining will bring to the area.”