top of page

Whitehaven Harbour: Colour it Red, Thursday December 7th 2023


Image: "Colour it Red, Queen's Dock Culvert" by Marianne Birkby

Whitehaven Harbour: Colour it Red

On Thursday 7th December people are invited to join an art event from 12 till 1pm  at the entrance to Queen’s Dock Whitehaven.  The event will shine a light on the pollution pouring into Whitehaven Harbour from the honeycomb of old mines in the area.   People are encouraged to paint or draw in shades of red and orange the iconic harbour of Whitehaven to highlight the year long outpouring of polluted water from the culvert in Queens Dock.  The images along with a letter will be sent to the Coal Authority, Environment Agency, Network Rail and others responsible for tackling the ongoing pollution. 


This time last year on December 7th the newly re-appointed Michael Gove Secretary of State for Levelling Up,  approved the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  This was around the same time that pollution thought to be from old mines started pouring into Whitehaven Harbour.  So far the authorities from the Coal Authority to Network Rail and the Environment Agency have failed to pinpoint, never mind mitigate or stop  the leakage pouring from the culvert in Queen’s Dock into Whitehaven Harbour.

"Jumble of Old Mines"

Campaigners frustrated at the lack of action by the authorities in stopping the pollution have asked professional dowsers if they could help pinpoint the source of the pollution which includes huge levels of iron and other pollutants. Dowsing is “an art not a science” nevertheless dowsers are used by, for example Thames Water to find leaks.    Lakes Against Nuclear Dump a volunteer campaign group offered to set up a crowdfund to reimburse dowsers for their work.  The dowsers turned down the job saying: "even trying to map dowse the area, it is a jumble of mine shafts and considering the rock formation of the area which could have fissures anywhere it is too complex for our members to try......We’d love to help but have to decline on this occasion."  John Baker, Water Diviner and Archaeological Dowser

 Artist Marianne Birkby who frequently paints the wildlife of the Whitehaven area says: “It is intolerable that this situation has continued for a full year already with no end in sight. The prospect of ever more deep mining in the Whitehaven area whether for coal or for a deep nuclear dump is unconscionable.   It isn’t beyond the bounds of possibility that deep exploratory boreholes and water flushing above Whitehaven from West Cumbria Mining may have contributed in part or in whole to the activation of previously undisturbed mines.  West Cumbria Mining's licences to mine on and offshore in the Whitehaven area have lapsed and are now due for renewal by the Coal Authority.  We are urging the Authority not to renew the licences especially not while polluted water from existing mines is pouring into the harbour.”


 A petition will also be delivered to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who appointed West Cumbria Mining’s CEO, Mark Kirkbride in 2019  to advise on nuclear dump plans.  Kirkbride's appointment has since been extended to 2027.  The petition calls for Mark Kirkbride’s appointment to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to be terminated.  There are calls by campaigners for an investigation into alleged governmental corruption and cronyism regarding the coal mine and nuclear dump plans.  

Event: Colour it Red

The event will take place on December 7th, the date the Government approved their nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine.  The event will take place rom 12pm till 1pm with artists and non-artists meeting at the entrance to Queen’s Dock (next to the culvert).  All abilities are welcome and there will be materials freely available for people to use.  For those who cannot come along on the day people are invited to email their drawings  to wastwater@protonmail

.com .  All images of the drawings/paintings will be sent to the authorities responsible for the pollution pouring into the harbour in Whitehaven along with a letter.

Image of boreholes from WCM's Project Description Document 2018

More information:


On 6th June 2023 the Coal Authority posted on their website that West Cumbria Mining have finalised their new applications for their three conditional licences for Woodhouse Colliery Onshore, Woodhouse Colliery North and Woodhouse Colliery South. All three original conditional licences had lapsed in October 2022.

 The Coal Authority have previously refused sight of the licence applications based on “Commercial Interests.”

The letter to be sent by campaigners will cover the following issues

  1.  Reiterate plea to the Coal Authority not to issue West Cumbria Mining with licences to mine onshore and offshore at Whitehaven

  2.  Iron levels from the very limited samples taken by the Environment Agency from the harbour are H U G E. Cadmium, ammonia, and other metals (including nickel) are all elevated.  There has been NO TEST for mercury and arsenic in the water coming from the culvert at Queen’s Dock or separate samples of suspended solids collected and tested for all of these plus radium, thorium and uranium.  None of these toxins have been tested for and all are likely to be present.

  3. Allonby Bay has just been chosen by The Rt Hon Dr Thérèse Coffey, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs,as one of only three Highly Protected Marine Areas in the UK. The intention of the HPMA is to allow the marine environment to fully recover from any harmful activities. The HPMA at Allonby Bay has been established to complement the existing marine protected areas of which Whitehaven is one.   The contaminated water pouring into Whitehaven harbour water will have been polluting Allonby Bay just several miles away  since December.  Whitehaven itself is a Marine Conservation Zone.  Do these so called “Gold Star”  protections mean nothing? 

  4. Network Rail are concerned about the Bransty Tunnel which travels for 1km under Whitehaven.  Nuclear waste flasks routinely travel through this tunnel to Sellafield.   How safe is it to continue using the Bransty Tunnel for nuclear wastes given that acidic mine water is undermining the Victorian infrastructure of the tunnel?  

  5. How can new mining whether for coal or for an even bigger, deeper, very hot nuclear waste dump be countenanced, given the evidence before our eyes at Whitehaven?  

139 views0 comments


bottom of page