Cumbria coal mine decision: why are plans delayed for second time, when is new deadline - proposals explained

The deadline has been moved to 8 November and if approved the coal mine would be the first to open in the UK in 30 years

The decision on whether to approve plans for a controversial coal mine in Cumbria has been delayed for a second time.

It is reported that civil servants are still grappling with the “complex” issue.

The Government was due to decide the fate of the mine by 7 July but this was pushed back to mid-August after the sacking of levelling up secretary Michael Gove.

Ten days before his replacement, Greg Clark, was due to make a call the deadline has now been pushed back to 8 November.

The decision will now be taken up by the new prime minister after they are elected to replace Boris Johnson. 

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What are the plans for the coal mine in Cumbria?

The proposed mine at Whitehaven in West Cumbria would remove coking coal from beneath the Irish Sea for the production of steel in the UK and Europe.

The coal would not be used for power generation.

The mine was approved to operate until 2049 by Cumbria County Council in October 2020, but just four months later the authority suspended its decision.

West Cumbria Mining previously said exploratory works led it to estimate there were about 750m tonnes of "excellent quality" coking coal in the area.

However, planning conditions would limit the company to producing no more than 2.78m tonnes a year.

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What have environmentalists said about the coal mine?

If approved, the coal mine would be the first to open in the UK in 30 years.

The firm behind the project claimed it would create around 500 jobs.

However, Friends of the Earth’s Victoria Marsom argued that Cumbria should create employment in greener industries.

She said: “The case against this coal mine is overwhelming regardless of how many times the decision is delayed.

“The UK and European market for coking coal is set to rapidly diminish as manufacturers switch to greener steel, while coal from this mine won’t replace Russian imports.”

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Ms Marsom added: “This new mine will increase carbon emissions… fossil fuels cause enormous damage to both our environment and economy.”

How have supporters of the mine reacted?

Supporters claim it will create jobs and reduce the need to import coal for steelmaking - and it is backed by a large number of Tory MPs.

The Conservative mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie, who has previously said local support for the mine is strong, called the latest delay "outrageous and totally unacceptable".

He said it was a "dreadful way" to treat private investors and called on Tory leadership contenders Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak "to use their influence to bring this to a conclusion".

He told the BBC: "To now move the goalposts to November is appalling and there is no justification whatsoever."

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What has the Government said about the delayed plans?

In a letter sent to the project’s stakeholders, a Government representative wrote: “This is a complex matter and officials are not yet in a position to complete their considerations prior to providing advice to Ministers.

“In these circumstances, given the imminent decision date, an additional period of time is required.

The statement added: “Planning Ministers will therefore not be in a position to reach a decision on this application by the previously notified date.

“The Secretary of State hereby gives notice that he has varied the timetable previously set and he will now issue his decision on or before 8 November 2022.”