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Government documents ‘blow gaping hole’ in its case for Cumbrian coalmine

Government documents ‘blow gaping hole’ in its case for Cumbrian coalmine

Government documents ‘blow gaping hole’ in its case for Cumbrian coalmine
Mar 02, 2024 1 min, 7 secs

When Michael Gove, the levelling up secretary, approved plans to build the Woodhouse Colliery near Whitehaven in December 2022, he said the UK would need the coal in order to carry on making steel.

“When Michael Gove approved the mine 14 months ago, he claimed it was needed because there was huge uncertainty over UK steel’s ability to decarbonise over the next 15 years.

The documents were disclosed to Friends of the Earth by the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ), the successor to BEIS, as part of legal action the environmental campaign group is taking against the government’s climate plan.

Setting a target for all steelmaking to be electrified by 2035, the document says: “We have high certainty in the delivery of this policy … due to the deliverability and confidence in steel-making decarbonisation technologies being considered which impact the majority of the emission reductions (such as using electric arc furnaces).”

In his letter granting planning permission, Gove said there was “no certainty” arc furnaces or any other alternative technologies would significantly alter steel production, and the UK needed a continuing supply of metallurgical coal for years to come.

With an expected production capacity of about 2.8m tonnes of coal a year, the £165m Woodhouse Colliery would create 500 jobs locally, with advocates seeing it as a means of “levelling up” deprived parts of north-west England.

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