top of page

Cumbrian Coal Mine Pushes for NO Scrutiny of Nuclear Impacts - No Marine License “Needed” they say!



First Demonstration Against Coal Mine - Proximity to Sellafield front and centre -

Radiation Free Lakeland 2017.


PRESS RELEASE

Monday 8th April


Cumbrian Coal Mine Pushes Hard to Bypass Nuclear Aspects of Marine License


Campaigners have discovered that the Cumbrian coal mine, despite being subject to

two ongoing legal challenges is pushing to bypass any regulatory controls concerning

offshore extraction of coal under the Irish Sea off the Cumbrian coast.

Notwithstanding the legal challenges by South Lakes Action on Climate Change

and Friends of the Earth on climate impacts, West Cumbria Mining (WCM) are

pushing ahead to discharge the planning conditions put in place to mitigate a variety

of adverse impacts. 


Planning Condition 22 states that "no construction works shall take place

until either a Marine Licence is granted or, if a licence is not required, that this

information has been submitted to and agreed in writing by the minerals planning

authority.” Freedom of Information requests by Friends of the Earth reveal that the

developers are lobbying the council’s planning authority (formerly Cumbria, now

Cumberland and Westmorland & Furness) in order to bypass the regulatory scrutiny of

a Marine License.


“Nuclear Impacts Ignored"

Radiation Free Lakeland (RFL), the nuclear safety group who were first to oppose the

coal mine in 2017, point out that “our most serious concerns remain the close

proximity to Sellafield, earthquake risks, subsidence and transboundary impacts. All of

these concerns have been brushed aside, firstly by Cumbria County Council and then

by the Planning Inquiry as being issues that “would be considered by the Marine

Management Organisation as part of the licensing process.”


New Coal Mine Like No Other in Proximity to Sellafield - can kicked down the road indefinitely

Despite the Planning Inspector and the Secretary of State stating that “potential

transboundary effects from the offshore components “would be considered” by the

MMO,” the developers clear aim is to bypass offshore regulatory controls includingnuclear safety aspects of their proposed coal mine just five miles from the worlds

 riskiest nuclear waste and plutonium site. 


Clear and Present Danger Ignored

The nuclear impacts say RFL have “unlike

the blanket coverage of the mine’s climate impacts been given zero attention. That

avoidance looks like a deliberate and ongoing ploy despite the clear and present danger

to Cumbria and our European neighbours from a radiological catastrophe.”


“Rubber Stamp"

As revealed in the email correspondence seen by Friends of the Earth, the coal mine’s

push to be granted “a rubber stamp” hinges on section 66(1)(7) of the Marine and

Coastal Access Act 2009 that they will not “construct, alter or improve any works […]

under the seabed.” West Cumbria Mining justify this in a statement to the Marine

Management Organisation saying that: “On the basis that all WCM will do under the

seabed is extract coal (not construct, alter or improve anything at all), the Act cannot

apply.” This justification by the developers is at odds with reality. Mass voids under

the seabed created by extraction of coal will, according to WCM’s plans be backfilled.

The backfill would consist of poor-quality unsaleable coal and rock spoil crushed and

added to water and cement to be pumped into the voids in an attempt to mitigate

against subsidence of the seabed above the coal mine. 


Above the Coal Mine, the Sellafield Mud Patch

Radiation Free Lakeland note

that the seabed here holds most of the radioactive burden from decades of Sellafield

discharge to the Irish Sea and is known as the Sellafield Mud Patch. Resuspension of

the silts would result in increased radiological burden to marine-life and humans.

Richard Outram of Nuclear Free Local Authorities has pointed out that: “surely they

(WCM) are ALTER-ing something under the seabed by extracting coal. The Oxford

English Dictionary defines an Alternation as ‘a change to something that makes it

different’. If the coal is there and is then no longer there then surely the geological

composition and structure beneath the seabed is being changed and thereby

altered?”


Earthquake and Subsidence

Regarding earthquake risks from the coal mine the Planning Inspector in his

recommendation to Government stated: "the risk of a seismic event cannot be

ruled out.” However, the Planning Inquiry afforded “limited weight” to “future

seismic events” leaving this along with other impacts such as subsidence and

resuspension of radioactive wastes on the seabed from decades of Sellafield’s

discharges to scrutiny by the Marine Management Organisation.


Hair Raising Twist in the Tale

Radiation Free Lakeland say that yet another hair-raising twist in the tale of this coal

mine is the appointment of the coal boss, CEO Mark Kirkbride to the Committee on

Radioactive Waste Management in 2019. Kirkbride’s ongoing role in the Department for

Energy Security and Net Zero’s sponsored Committee is to advise Government on

construction of a deep geological disposal facility for the UK's heat generating nuclear

wastes. Two of the three areas in the frame for a very deep nuclear facility for high level

nuclear wastes (South and Mid Copeland) are in West Cumbria. Coincidentally these

two areas are adjacent to Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine.


ENDS

Contact

Radiation Free Lakeland — contact supplied


Attached 


Letter to Westmorland and Furness - and Cumberland Council  from Friends of the Earth

Press Release 


Below - Letter to Tim Farron MP for Westmorland and Furness from Radiation Free Lakeland

Image - First Demonstration Against the Coal Mine Highlights Sellafield Proximity - Radiation Free Lakeland 2017


References

Radiation Free Lakeland protest 2017 “Opponents of the mine fear that having

coal drifts extend to within 8km of the Sellafield ponds, containing high level

nuclear wastes, could put the public at risk. They raised concerns about the

proximity of the potential mining activity to the nuclear facility.”

mining-plans/


The founder of the nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland whose

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign was first to call out coal mine on nuclear

and climate grounds and delayed the plans with legal challenge said: “The Government

U-turn on a public inquiry is brilliant news, provided the inquiry also offers a further

opportunity for the nuclear impacts of the proposal to be looked at again, given the

development will take place under decades of Sellafield's radioactive wastes and just

five miles from the world's riskiest nuclear waste site. We will be calling for that scrutiny

to happen alongside the climate change issues.”

plan-for-cumbrian-coal-mine/


South Lakes Action on Climate Change legal challenge.

- climate focus

whitehaven-cumbria/


Friends of the Earth legal challenge – climate focus

20Briefing%20260423_0.pdf


"the risk of a seismic event cannot be ruled out” however the Planning Inquiry

afforded “limited weight” to “future seismic events” ( leaving this along with other

impacts such as subsidence and resuspension of radioactive wastes on the

seabed from decades of Sellafield’s discharges, to scrutiny by the Marine

Management Organisation). Report to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up,

Housing and Communities by Stephen Normington BSc DipTP MRICS MRTPI FIQ FIHE

an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State Date 7 April 2022- 21.245 - Costs IR

3271069.pdf


Briefing paper commissioned by Radiation Free Lakeland June 2020 : Radiological

Implications of Potential Seabed Subsidence, Seismicity and “Fault Re-

Activation" beneath the Cumbrian Mud Patch: Induced by “Mass Removal,” Rapid

Extraction and Void Space Creation - by Tim Deere-Jones Independent & non-

aligned Marine Pollution Researcher & Consultant

“Major Conclusions

It is noted that there is a lack of data about the status of the existing historical galleries

and workings of the West Cumbrian Coalfield. It is noted that there is a lack of accurate

data about the history and status of any subsidence seismicity in the coalfield. It is

noted that the BGS have concluded that the coalfield is heavily faulted and has a long

history of subsidence and that it appears that there are no plans to monitor for any

subsidence prior to, during the operational phase or in the post operational phase of

the Woodhouse Colliery. It is noted that sub-sea monitoring equipment is available and

could be deployed in the region in order to monitor for any subsidence effects arising as

a result of the proposed Woodhouse Colliery “mass removal” extraction.

...there is a real potential for subsidence to occur as a result of the “mass removal”

and the creation of extensive sub-sea void spaces, and it is noted that such subsidence

could generate earthquake and liquefaction effects which may extend onshore as far as

the Sellafield/Moorside sites.

....any seabed subsidence in the WCM designated sub-sea mining zone would generate

re-suspension of Cumbrian Mud Patch heavily radioactive seabed sediments. It is

noted that such an event would generate elevated doses of man-made radioactivity to

coastal zone populations and sea users along both the Cumbrian coast and at

“downstream” regions further afield.”Given the potential for such a radiological effect and the delivery of increased doses of

radioactivity to relevant coastal zone communities, some of which have already been

identified by the authorities as Coastal Critical Groups, the Woodhouse Colliery

proposal (especially in the absence of any precautionary mandatory subsidence

monitoring) is strongly contra-indicated and should be abandoned

radiological-implications-of-potential-seabed-subsidence-seismicity-fault-re-

activation-beneath-the-cumbrian-mud-patch-induced-by-mass-removal/


Committee on Radioactive Waste Management

management/about


Sellafield. http//www.irishtimes.com/world/uk/2023/12/05/sellafield-nuclear-site-

has-leak-that-could-have-potentially-significant-consequences-guardian-reports/



5th April 2024Sent by Email to Tim Farron MP for Westmorland and Furness

Dear Tim,

Cumbria Coal Mine Seeking to Bypass Marine License in Condition 22

Please find enclosed a letter from Niall Toru, Senior Lawyer with Friends of the Earth.

The letter is addressed to Cumberland, and Westmorland & Furness Councils and

outlines correspondence between West Cumbria Mining and the councils with regard

marine licensing of the coal mine.

The letter states: “despite the legal challenges, WCM will presumably be working to

discharge the various planning conditions, which were put in place to mitigate the

adverse effects of the proposal and make it acceptable in planning terms. One such

condition is that no construction works shall take place until either a marine licence is

granted or, if a licence is not required, that this information has been submitted to and

agreed in writing by the minerals planning authority.” Presently the minerals planning

authority with responsibility for ensuring due regulatory scrutiny is Westmorland and

Furness.

Radiation Free Lakeland’s opposition to the coal mine began in 2017 with our most

serious concerns regarding proximity to Sellafield, earthquake risks, subsidence and

transboundary impacts being brushed aside, firstly by Cumbria County Council and

then by the Planning Inquiry as being issues that “would be considered by the Marine

Management Organisation as part of the licensing process.” Despite the Planning

Inspector and the Secretary of State clearly stating that “potential transboundary

effects from the offshore components “would be considered” by the MMO,” West

Cumbria Mining told the Planning Inspector that “we may not need a marine licence.”

As revealed in the email correspondence by Friends of the Earth, WCM’s desire that

they should be granted a rubber stamp hinges on section 66(1)(7) of the Marine and

Coastal Access Act 2009 that they will not “construct, alter or improve any works […]under the seabed.” West Cumbria Mining have blithely stated to the Marine

Management Organisation that: “There will be no construction of any structures or

other installations underground in the offshore portion of the mine – the only activity is

the mining of coal. Once the room and pillar sections have been mined, all temporary

equipment is removed and those sections are permanently abandoned.” This magical

scenario of WCM’s is aimed at circumventing a marine licence and is at odds with the

practicalities of construction of a coal mine and intended backfilling with cement paste

(with the aim of mitigating the inevitable subsidence). Friends of the Earth point out

that “on the equipment being ‘temporary’, we note the planning permission runs until

2049. On the mined sections being ‘permanently abandoned’, we note the proposal is

in fact to add water and cement to any mined rock and unsaleable coal to convert it into

paste, and for that paste to then “be pumped back underground for deposit in the void

spaces created by mining…WCM recently stated to the MMO: “On the basis that all

WCM will do under the seabed is extract coal (not construct, alter or improve anything

at all), the Act cannot apply” (emphasis in original quote).”

Clearly West Cumbria Mining are pushing hard to circumvent proper scrutiny and

regulatory control over the largest and most damaging part of the coal mine - the sub-

sea area under the Sellafield Mud Patch and just five miles from the Sellafield site.

Our own experience is as Friends of the Earth have pointed out “When consulted at

various stages from 2017 to 2020 on the planning application, the MMO declined to

comment. This was on the basis it would be reviewing potential impacts on the marine

environment through the marine licence application. And when asked by WCM in 2018

to review its marine environmental impact assessment, the MMO confirmed then that

“it has been established that [the offshore] works are licensable”. Other consultees,

such as the RSPB, also made their representations on the understanding that marine

impacts would be considered as part of a later marine licence application.”

The Planning Inspector in his recommendation to Government stated : "the risk of a

seismic event cannot be ruled out” however the Planning Inquiry afforded “limited

weight” to “future seismic events” presumably leaving this to scrutiny by the

Marine Management Organisation ( Report to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up,

Housing and Communities by Stephen Normington BSc DipTP MRICS MRTPI FIQ FIHE

an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State Date 7 April 2022- 21.245 )

This would be a coal mine like no other with its uniquely dangerous location underneath

the Sellafield Mud Patch and just five miles from the world’s largest stockpile of

plutonium. These are issues that have been sidelined up until now and West Cumbria

Mining are keen that these issues should continue to be dangerously sidelined.The CEO of West Cumbria Mining is Mark Kirkbride who was appointed to the

Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in 2019 to advise on construction of a

deep geological disposal facility for the UK's heat generating nuclear wastes. Radiation

Free Lakeland note the worrying precedent of a government appointed “invaluable

advisor” seeking to actively circumvent regulatory controls over his coal mining

business interests.

Radiation Free Lakeland join with Friends of the Earth, the Nuclear Free Local

Authorities and Close Capenhurst Campaign in urging Westmorland and Furness

Council along with Cumberland Council to ensure Condition 22 maintains the

requirement of a Marine Licence from the Marine Management Organisation rather

than a rubber stamp with zero regulatory control and scrutiny over the potentially

catastrophic sub-sea aspects of the coal mine.

We would be very grateful if you could ensure that Westmorland and Furness Council

as the body with responsibility for Minerals and Waste, are urged to ensure that

Condition 22 is not watered down to a mere rubber stamp by the Council but that

WCM’s coal mine goes through due regulatory process with full Marine Licence

application.

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland (address supplied)

Richard Outram, Secretary of Nuclear Free Local Authorities

Martyn Lowe, Close Capenhurst

221 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page