Market for Cumbrian coal declining fast

European steelmakers choose to go green 
  Published:  16 May 2022    |      2 minute read

The potential market for coking coal from the proposed mine at Whitehaven in Cumbria is declining before it even opens, according to new analysis published today by Friends of the Earth.

The declining market is a result of decisions taken by steelmakers across Europe to move away from coal and towards greener production methods. It risks the mine becoming a stranded asset long before its proposed closure in 2049.

Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove is due to announce on or before 7 July whether he is granting planning permission for the coal mine.

West Cumbria Mining say that up to 13% of the mine’s coal would be used by the UK steel industry, but British Steel, one of the two main customers, has expressed doubts about whether it can use the coal and has said it is not lobbying for the mine to be built.

The remaining coal would be exported to steelmakers in mainland Europe. However, analysis shows that three-quarters of the coal-fired blast furnace steelmaking capacity in the EU 27 will reach the end of its operational life by 2030.

Companies have made announcements about the future of over two-thirds of this capacity, and all of these involve moving away from coal towards greener production methods. This means that the market for coking coal in the EU will decline significantly by the end of the decade and if the current trend continues, it will decline further by the mid-2030s as more blast furnaces reach the end of their operational life.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“The UK steel industry will only buy a small percentage of the Cumbrian coal, and with European steelmakers already moving to greener steel production, the market for this mine is declining before it has even opened.

“Nor will the mine replace coal from Russia – even its developers don’t claim that.

“The Whitehaven mine risks becoming a stranded asset with no market for its coal and potential consequences for the jobs the developers claim it will bring.

“With the world facing a climate emergency, green steel is clearly the future – something that any sensible government should embrace.

“Michael Gove must reject this mine and ensure that areas such as West Cumbria are at the heart of the green industrial revolution that the UK so clearly needs”.

* The story has been reported today by the Guardian.

ENDS

Notes to editors

1

. Friends of the Earth is urging Michael Gove to reject planning permission for the coal mine.

* Demand for coking coal is rapidly declining

* The mine will not replace Russian coal imports

* It would increase carbon emissions and approval would damage the UK’s climate credibility

* There are better ways to create the jobs that West Cumbria needs. Thousands of jobs could be created in Cumbria by investing in green power and energy conservation.