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Government delays decision on Cumbria coal mine amid political turmoil

Demonstrators outside the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, south of Whitehaven, ahead of the public inquiry into controversial plans for a new deep coal mine on the Cumbria coast (Owen Humphreys/PA)
Demonstrators outside the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, south of Whitehaven, ahead of the public inquiry into controversial plans for a new deep coal mine on the Cumbria coast (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The Government has delayed a decision over whether to approve a new coal mine for steel production in Cumbria, as political turmoil grips Westminster.

A date of July 7 had been set to decide whether or not to grant planning permission for the controversial coking coal mine on the edge of Whitehaven, following a planning inquiry in 2021.

But the Government has now told organisations concerned with the project that ministers would not be in a position to publish a decision by this date.

Proposed coking coal mine in Cumbria
(PA Graphics)

The mine has been backed by a number of Tory MPs, but has drawn the ire of environmentalists, who warn the coal is for steelmaking so it would not help lower energy bills, most of the coal would be exported, and it would damage the UK’s climate leadership credentials.

Climate Change Committee chairman Lord Deben has described the project as “absolutely indefensible”.

But Boris Johnson added to speculation that the Government could approve the mine when he told the Commons last month that “plainly it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, when we have our own domestic resources”.

Tony Bosworth, coal campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said: “This delay gives ministers extra time to ensure they make the right decision about the Whitehaven mine.

“There’s no justifying new coal and all the evidence is stacked against the mine – it’ll increase carbon emissions and its market is already declining as steelmakers move to greener production.

“Clearly this new mine would be a bad investment, which is why ministers must come to their senses and reject it.”