New £165m coal mine in Cumbria 'unanimously approved' by councillors despite escalating climate change crisis

Demand and jobs 'outweighs' global warming concerns, Lib Dem committee chair says

Tom Embury-Dennis
Tuesday 19 March 2019 15:25 GMT
New £165m coal mine in Cumbria 'unanimously approved' by councillors despite escalating climate change crisis

A new £165m coal mine has been unanimously approved by councillors in Cumbria, sparking protests by environmental campaigners.

Cumbria County Council said it was putting jobs above climate change concerns after its development committee approved the plan on Tuesday afternoon.

West Cumbria Mining, which filed the application, wants to extract coking coal along the coastline between Whitehaven and St Bees in Copeland and process the fossil fuel at a plant nearby.

Last week, Copeland's Conservative MP Trudy Harrison "wholeheartedly" endorsed the proposed undersea mine, touting new jobs and the "huge" investment it would bring to the area.

International trade secretary Liam Fox has also given his backing to the project.

But critics accused the council of ignoring the current climate crisis, which is increasingly causing extreme and dangerous weather events across the globe.

Parts of the US midwest are currently suffering from record-breaking floods, while southern Africa is attempting to cope with an unprecedented cyclone which may have killed more than 1,000 people.

"Cumbrian coal mine application vote - approved unanimously, by Labour, Lib Dem and Tory councillors. How can this shower be in charge of something so big? Shame on you all," tweeted Gwen Harrison, a local climate activist who attended the meeting.

The decision prompted a handful of campaigners to stage a sit in on the floor of the chamber.

Geoff Cook, Liberal Democrat councillor and chair of Cumbria County Council’s development committee, said: "It wasn’t an easy decision. All of us would prefer to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and we recognise that during construction there will be disruption to many local residents.

"However we felt that the need for coking coal, the number of jobs on offer and the chance to remove contamination outweighed concerns about climate change and local amenity."

Friends of the Earth clean energy campaigner Tony Bosworth told The Independent: “This is awful news for our environment.

“If we want to avoid dangerous climate change, giving the go-ahead to a new coal mine takes us in completely the wrong direction.

“Coal for power generation is currently being phased-out. Industries like steel and cement must make the shift to cleaner energy a top priority.

“It’s time to consign coal to the history books where it now belongs.”

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