UK approves controversial new coal mine, sparking criticism

    WORLD  08 December 2022 - 22:01

    The Woodhouse Colliery project is expected to take two years to build and create 500 jobs. However, many say it will set back Britain in its bid to meet climate goals.

    The UK approved its first new deep coal mine in three decades on December 7, sparking swift criticism from environmental groups, DW reports.

    Britain's Conservative government has defended the project, with Cabinet Minister Michael Gove saying it would have a "neutral effect" on climate change, but activists warn the mine could deal a major blow to the UK's climate goals.

    What do we know about the project?

    The Woodhouse Colliery mine project was unveiled in 2014 and has been criticized by the British government's independent climate advisory panel, as well as the opposition Labour Party, NGOs and activists.

    It seeks to extract coking coal used in the steel industry from under the Irish Sea. The coal will be processed on the site of a shuttered chemical plant in the town Whitehaven, about 340 miles (550 kilometers) away from London.

    The project by West Cumbria Mining in northwest England is expected to create around 500 jobs.

    The mine would take two years to build, and cost around 165 million pounds ($201 million; €191 million). It is proposed to be in operation for 50 years.

    "This coal will be used for the production of steel and would otherwise need to be imported. It will not be used for power generation. The mine seeks to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the wider economy," a spokesperson for the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.

    The majority of the coal produced is expected to be exported to Europe. After five years, more than 80% of the coal produced annually is to be sent to an export terminal on England's east coast, according to planning documents.

    How have climate activists responded?

    Critics argue the mine will affect Britain's status as a leader in replacing fossil fuels with renewable sources of energy. It could affect the country's goal to phase out coal and meet goals of generating 100% electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

    Coal burning power plants are responsible for a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the largest single source.

    "The UK government risks becoming a superpower in climate hypocrisy rather than climate leadership. How can we possibly expect other countries to rein in fossil fuel extraction when we're building new coal mines here?" Doug Parr, policy director at Greenpeace UK told AP news agency.

    Britain has passed laws requiring it to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

    In 2021, about a quarter of Britain's energy was produced by wind. But the Conservative government has dialed back on wind turbines due to local opposition.

    Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, oil and gas prices have soared in the UK and Europe. Britain has taken steps to bolster its domestic energy supply. Even though it imports very little Russian gas, the energy markets are subject to price fluctuations.

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