Supporters of the proposed new coal mine in west Cumbria say the Prime Minister’s comments on mining in the UK are “the clearest indicator yet” that the plans will be approved.

Boris Johnson said it "makes no sense" to import coal when the UK has its own domestic resources, during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday.

A decision on Britain’ first new coal mine in decades is due to be made by secretary of state, Michael Gove, in the next two weeks, following a planning inquiry in 2021.

Mr Johnson’s remark has added to speculation that the Government could approve the controversial new mine in Whitehaven.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Conservative MP Chris Green for Bolton West asked Mr Johnson if he shared his concerns about “the ethics of holding back British industry” and “exporting and magnifying our carbon emissions overseas all in the name of net zero”.

The Prime Minister replied: "I think we can all be proud of the way we have reduced CO2 emissions in this country.

"But plainly it makes no sense to be importing coal, particularly for metallurgical purposes, when we have our own domestic resources."

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Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie, an ardent supporter of the mine, said: “Boris Johnson has come out and said what I have been saying for the last seven years.

“The specific nature of the comments that he made is the clearest indicator yet that this mine is going to be given the green light.”

John Greasley, who set up the We Support West Cumbria Mining Facebook page, said: “I’m more hopeful than I have been for the last six months, waiting on tenterhooks. There’s definitely an understanding in the Government of the need for a local supply.

“There’s a lot of people who are very positive about it.”

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He added that the patience of West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the plans, was “incredible”.

The proposed £160million mine would remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for the production of steel in the UK and export to Europe.

Environmental campaigners, including Friends of the Earth, have strongly opposed the mine, saying it would increase carbon emissions and damage the UK’s climate credibility.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner Tony Bosworth, said: "The Prime Minister is simply wrong: opening new UK coal mines makes no sense for energy security or tackling the climate crisis.

“A new mine in Cumbria would have little impact on coal imports. Steelmakers use a blend of different coals so they would still have to import the majority of their coal. And one of the two blast furnace sites in the UK– British Steel in Scunthorpe – has expressed doubts about whether it can use Cumbrian coal.  

“The UK steel industry says it isn’t lobbying for a new mine. It knows its future lies in moving away from coal to low carbon steel-making – something that’s already happening in Europe.

“Only a few months ago, the Prime Minister was sounding the death knell for coal. If his government approves the new mine, its climate reputation would be ruined.

“Green steel is the future. It’s time to leave coal in the ground where it belongs.”

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