Britain’s first new deep coalmine in 30 years, the £165m Woodhouse colliery, is unnecessary and incompatible with UK climate ambitions, according to a report by the independent thinktank the Green Alliance which has found the colliery, along the coast from Whitehaven, will hold back the development of low-carbon steelmaking. The report, authored by two university professors who specialise in environmental issues, claims that opening a new coalmine would hinder this strategy by ensuring the continued availability of cheap coal.
It also refutes Cumbria county council’s claim that the mine, which aims to process 2.5m tonnes of coking coal a year for the UK and European steel industry, replacing imports from the US, Canada, Russia and Colombia, will be carbon neutral.
Prof Rebecca Willis and Mike Berners-Lee from Lancaster University, say the mine would produce 8.4m tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to the emissions from more than 1 million households.
The UK has set a target to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, and has committed to switch to lower carbon steel production, announcing a clean steel fund in August 2019. But the report says the proposed mine, expected to begin production in two years, subject to environmental certificates, will jeopardise these ambitions.
“The proposed mine is clearly incompatible with the UK’s climate ambitions and the need for a clean energy future. The new government has championed its commitment to climate action. It now needs to set out its policy on fossil fuel extraction, making clear that digging more coal out of the ground is no longer acceptable,” Willis said.
Dustin Benton, Green Alliance’s policy director, said: “Clean energy has already made coal obsolete in the power sector. Our previous work shows that UK demand for coking coal would halve if steel producers opted for cheaper, cleaner steel production using today’s technologies. In addition, innovation in zero carbon steel production means this mine will likely become redundant in the near future, saddling Cumbria with an expensive stranded asset.”