UK coal mining dilemma pits energy crisis against green goals

After years of opposition from environmental groups and political wrangling, the UK government has delayed a decision on whether to open the mine, following the July resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It was pushed back again, with a decision expected by November 8. But whatever happens, the controversial project has highlighted the wider dilemma facing the next leader about how to balance the country’s green goals with the disruption of fuel supplies following the Russia. war in Ukraine.

The proposed mine shocked climate campaigners and went against UK pledges to lead climate action – and ‘make coal history’ – when it hosted the COP26 summit in November in Glasgow, Scotland. Britain’s last deep coal mine, in Yorkshire, closed at the end of 2015.

The chairman of the government’s independent climate watchdog said in June the plans were “absolutely indefensible” and would blow the country’s net zero commitment by mid-century. The mine was approved by the local council in 2020 before the government stepped in to hold a public inquiry after concerns were raised that it would contradict the country’s legally binding target of achieving net zero emissions. here 2050.

For many people in Whitehaven, the pit would mean welcome jobs and investment.

“It’s definitely a deprived area, so if they use local skills that would be a big plus,” said Sylvia Atkinson, a 49-year-old nurse and longtime resident of the area, as she walked her dog along of an old mining railway. There was some opposition locally, but most people accepted the project. “We have always been an industrial area,” she said last month.

The final decision lay with Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levels, Housing and Communities, and Johnson hinted the project would get the green light, saying it ‘didn’t make sense to import coal’ then that the UK had its own. Resources. The government appears to be weakening a key climate pledge to close all of its coal-fired power stations by October 2024.

Then Johnson fired Gove before stepping down after a series of scandals. The green light or rejection of the mine currently rests with Greg Clark, Gove’s replacement, while the Conservative Party chooses its leader and the next British Prime Minister. A decision was scheduled for August 17 before being postponed until a new cabinet is in place.

In addition to raising questions about how government works, the mining project is more than just a clash between environmental concerns and industry needs.

The project may not align with the UK government’s previous climate targets, but it does with the flagship ‘race to the top’ policy of closing economic gaps between richer and poorer regions. West Cumbria, once a stronghold of the opposition Labor Party, is part of the northern ‘Red Wall’ which supported leaving the European Union in 2016 and then backed Johnson in the 2019 election.

Whitehaven coal is a metallurgical type, known as ‘coking coal’ and used for making steel rather than fueling power stations to generate electricity. The government is trying to promote the steel industry as a beneficiary of Brexit and said in June it would extend a set of tariffs and quotas for two years to protect domestic producers, despite fears the move would clash with World Trade Organization rules.

The new mine promises to create 504 positions plus 50 additional apprenticeship places to train people. It uses land on the Irish Sea coast vacated by a chemical plant which was a major employer before closing in 2005. The site is still surrounded by fences and turnstiles allowing workers to come and go .

Despite being on the edge of the Lake District National Park, a tourist hotspot, West Cumbria has traditionally had higher levels of unemployment and deprivation after its industry declined.

The region’s affinity with mining and steelmaking dates back to the early days of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. Then, like much of Britain’s heavy industry, it suffered a decline after the Second World War which accelerated in the 1970s and 1980s. Haig Pit closed in 1986 before becoming a museum, which itself closed 30 years later.

Workington, about 14 kilometers up the coast from Haig Pit, used to manufacture railway tracks before the last rolled off the production line in 2006. A photo at the entrance to the station illustrates their use in Sri Lanka. . The town center pub is called “The Henry Bessemer” in honor of the inventor of modern steelmaking in the 19th century.

In recent years, the largest employer has been the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant, which is being decommissioned. Mike Starkie, the Conservative mayor of Copeland, is a strong supporter of the mine, saying it would help diversify the local economy away from reliance on the nuclear industry while attracting young people to an area with a declining population.

Britain’s messy politics have cast a shadow over the country this year, but Starkie said it was time to move the project forward. “It would be a huge boost for the local economy,” he said. “The world must keep turning.”

(By Rodney Jefferson and Jess Shankleman)

About William J. Harris

Check Also

Chief and his brother arrested for illegal mining in a pit dug in his room (PHOTOS)

According to the Ghana Police, the service’s attention was drawn to the illegal act after …