Public Inquiry into new Cumbrian coal mine begins today

Press release
Coal mine proposal casts long shadow over UK government’s climate credibility
  Published:  07 Sep 2021    |      2 minute read

The prospect of a new coal mine in Cumbria seriously undermines the UK government’s credibility ahead of November’s crucial climate talks, Friends of the Earth warns today at the start of a public inquiry into the controversial proposal. 

Boris Johnson has made coal one of the top priorities for the climate summit, which the UK government is hosting. Following last month’s stark warning by climate scientists, the Prime Minister said: “We know what must be done to limit global warming – consign coal to history and shift to clean energy sources, protect nature and provide climate finance for countries on the frontline.”

Friends of the Earth will be one of the two main parties opposing the application at the inquiry. 

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said

“The prospect of a new mine in Cumbria casts a long shadow over the UK government’s climate strategy, and its hosting of crucial climate talks in Glasgow in a few weeks’ time. 

“The government has said coal must be consigned to the history books, and this must mean all coal not just that used for power generation.

“With the world hurtling towards catastrophic climate change we should be slamming on the brakes, not hitting the accelerator with yet more fossil fuels.

“Areas like Cumbria should be at the forefront of government plans to transform our economy, create new jobs and build the cleaner future we so urgently need.”

Ruth Balogh, of West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, said:  

“Cumbria deserves far better than a new coal mine that will damage our local environment and further wreck the climate.  

“The region needs more jobs, but these could and should be for industries that build a better future. Proper investment in West Cumbria could create thousands of new jobs in areas such as renewable energy, waste management and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient. 

“It’s time to leave coal, gas and oil in the ground where they belong.”

Friends of the Earth opposes the mine for a number of reasons, including: 

• The coal produced will increase global carbon emissions at a time when scientists have just delivered the starkest warning yet about the climate crisis. 
• The steel industry is already  taking steps to decarbonise and is moving away from coal.
• There are better ways to provide the jobs that are needed in West Cumbria.

Friends of the Earth spokespeople will be attending a rally organised by local campaigners outside the main proposed mine site (the former Marchon chemical works) south of Whitehaven to protest against the proposal. The rally will run from 9-10am on the first day of the inquiry (Tuesday 7 September)


The prospect of a new coal mine in the UK has undermined the government’s credibility on the climate crisis – particularly as Boris Johnson is hosting this November’s crucial climate summit in Glasgow. One of the prime minister’s key calls in the run-up to the summit has been to “consign coal to history”.         

The government initially refused to intervene when Cumbria County Council granted planning permission to West Cumbria Mining for a new coal mine, just south of Whitehaven.  However, following huge concern about the mine’s climate change impacts, and a direct intervention by the chair of the Climate Change Committee, Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick changed his mind in March 2021 and ‘called in’ the proposal, triggering a public inquiry.

The mine would be the UK’s first new deep coal mine for 30 years and is intended to provide coking coal for the steel industry until 2049. 

The inquiry – which will be conducted online – is expected to last around four weeks. The planning inspector will make a recommendation to Mr Jenrick, with a final decision expected by Spring 2022.


A Friends of the Earth petition against he mine has been signed by over 55,000 people