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New Cumbrian coal mine could create up to 500 jobs

A major study is to start into the possible opening of a new coal mine that could create up to 500 jobs.

West Cumbria Mining logo
West Cumbria Mining's logo

West Cumbria Mining has secured millions of pounds to develop the first stage of the project, which has been hailed by a senior county councillor as "very good news indeed".

The private company wants to extract coking coal from a mine next to the former Haig Colliery in Whitehaven.

It believes there are more than 750 million tonnes of reserves spread across a 200 square kilometre area.

The coal is within three main seams, most of which are offshore and were mined at Haig.

Mark Kirkbride, West Cumbria Mining's chief executive, said they had raised £14.7 million to support the project's development.

The firm will now discuss the project with local authorities, organisations and residents to get feedback as its work progresses.

There will be a limited programme of onshore drilling and data reprocessing to provide more details about the coal as well as environmental and social studies as part of a preliminary feasibility study.

An offshore drilling programme will begin next year to determine the quality of the coke, which is used in the steel making industry.

If the mine goes ahead, it is expected about three million tonnes would be extracted each year. It would be taken to a processing site and then placed on the UK and European markets.

Coun David Southward, Cumbria County Council’s cabinet member responsible for economic regeneration, said: “To have a multi-million pound investor looking at the viability of a scheme of this scale in west Cumbria is very good news indeed.

"The rebirth of mining in west Cumbria would be a massive boost to regeneration in the area.

"We’ve started some initial discussions with the company and they seem to be receptive to getting the maximum local input and involvement on their plans. It’s early days, but this would be a major string to the region’s bow.”

The Whitehaven Coking Coal Project comprises three licences, the onshore licence, southern offshore licence and the northern offshore licence. The area's geology is well understood from extensive mapping, drilling, geophysical surveys and historical coal mining in adjacent areas, says West Cumbria Mining.

The county council is responsible for deciding planning consents for exploratory drilling, the main mining operation and any remediation work.

No formal details of anything that would require planning permission have so far been submitted.

Millions of tonnes of coking coal were extracted from Haig from 1914 until it closed in 1986, much of it beneath the seabed, up to five miles offshore.

Have your say

The news of a new mine is always treated with fear and trepidation resulting in uninformed ramblings by your average comfortable NIMBY. They will give you one hundred internet horror stories of why any new development is bad, especially if it is in their local vicinity, instead of an unencumbered, balanced view.
The gas that was removed via 10 inch suction pipe ranges and used for almost 100 years to generate electricity at Point of Ayr Colliery (where many Haig men, Joe Garret and Bill Sharp included ended up) is the same gas that can be extracted and used to provide energy for the new mine, creating a modicum of carbon neutrality.
Although some of the former miners of the UK, who were young men during the demise of British Coal could be willing to educate the next generation of subterranean workers this will be difficult. The development machinery of the modern underground coal mine has evolved into giant intelligent electro hydraulic beasts that would require trained professional personnel to be brought in. The long-walls are modern versions of the old faces, but the PLA men who worked the long walls are for the most looking down, or in some cases up at us so new workers, new people to Cumbria would be required again.
Is this part of the problem why so many NIMBY’s react so feverously, a problem so often faced in the rest of the World, the problem of xenophobia.
The mine will be a boon to Whitehaven and Cumbria and would be a long term economic backbone to the town and a major improvement in the county due to supplier companies and the overall multiplier effect.
The product is much sought after and even in the current depressed market would be profitable as the insatiable demand for coking coal both in the UK and the rest of the World will never stop, it may slow from time to time but it will never stop.
Take the opportunity, embrace the new mine and create a positive long term future for the people of Whitehaven where a 14HM27, (The most likely machine size) is the future and not a UB40.

Posted by Brian Roberts on 26 March 2015 at 07:36

Access to the mine will be extremely difficult, and the current repeated traffic congestion caused by Sellafield traffic. I have just repaired a mobility scooter for a friend and discovered that the area from Whitehaven to Ravenglass is now grouped with the Highlands and Islands, with an average of a £20 levy, and only 1 supplier using B.T. could give next day delivery via BT.
This problem will be compounded by the additional 3000 construction workers for the proposed Nuclear power plants, particularly since site access will be further restricted as the site will straddle the Blackbeck roundabout to North Gate road.
A completely new road system is necessary before either project can proceed.
The rapid mining of this coal is not in the interest of either the area or the country, rapid use of irreplaceable assets should be stopped, and a regulated extraction process used to extract and exploit all of the ingredients of coal.
British Gas as a condition for de-nationalisation had to develop a replacement for natural gas when it runs out.
An experimental plant was constructed at Westfield in Fife, which used the Lurgi process which Germany used for oil and gas production in the second world war, all by-products were analysed, and the gas used to fuel a Rolls Royce gas turbine generator. This was run with a high jet pipe temperature to burn off Hydrogen sulphide, a caustic scrubber could be used to remove all impurities from the exhaust gases, with the relatively small amount of solids at the end of the process.
The other ramblings in the press for undersea gasification under the Solway does not appear viable due to the gas produced having to come to the surface by convection assisted by the spent combustion air. Experiments carried out at Newnham Spinney in Derbyshire in the !950s in conjunction with the Russians and CEGB were successful, the economy slowing down and the production of town gas by reforming Naphtha also made it unviable.

Posted by Ken Titley on 14 July 2014 at 10:51

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