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Friday, 29 August 2014

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500-job coal mine in Cumbria may open as early as 2017

A fully-operational coal mine which could create 500 jobs in Cumbria could be in place as early as 2017.

Related: New Cumbrian coal mine could create up to 500 jobs

West Cumbria Mining wants to open the new mine next to the former Haig Colliery in Whitehaven, to extract coking coal for the steel-making industry.

The company has raised nearly £15m for the first stage of the project which will involve initial investigations taking place over the next 18 months.

And news of the development comes after plans for a new coalfield near Longtown, potentially worth billions of pounds, moved a step forward, with initial testing complete and indicating a 9ft coal seam.

Mark Kirkbride, chief executive officer of WCM, said a full planning application is expected to be lodged in two years’ time, with the mine being fully operational by the end of 2017/early 2018.

Mr Kirkbride, originally a mining engineer, said a lot of work has been going on for the past two years, such as desk top studies and consultations on the earmarked area under the sea opposite St Bees.

West Cumbria Mining was established just a few months ago to take the plans forward.

He added he was passionate that as many of the estimated 500 jobs were filled locally. “With any mining, there’s a big knock-on effect to the local community,” he said. “I’m originally from Middlesbrough in an area of high unemployment so I understand the importance of jobs going locally.”

Skilled workers would only be brought in from outside of the area to train others.

West Cumbria Mining believes there is more than 750m tonnes of coking coal resources across a 200 sq km area which engineers are investigating. It hopes to develop a mine capable of producing about 3m tonnes of coal each year in the long term.

The news has been welcomed by the county council, saying it could bring hundreds of new jobs, a boom for related service industries in the area as well as benefiting transport links such as the Port of Workington from the volume of material potentially generated.

The mining firm is now holding talks with local authorities, organisations and residents to explain its plans.

In Longtown, the Australian firm behind the plans – New Age Exploration (NAE) – revealed it is looking at a mothballed military depot to set up a transport hub linked to the massive project.

The company is in talks about possibly using the Ministry of Defence’s old ammunition depot at Eastriggs if exploration work on the Lochinvar coalfield, near Longtown, results in a working mine.

Latest testing at the site showed a 9ft coal seam which NAE managing director Gary Fietz said gave them “greater confidence” the seam was continuous across the central region of the coal deposit.

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