Whitehaven coal mine opposition provokes real anger, mayor says

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It is claimed the mine will provide work for about 500 people in the Whitehaven area

Criticism of plans for the UK's first deep coal mine in 30 years is misplaced and has provoked "real anger", the local mayor has said.

The mine, near Whitehaven, was approved by Cumbria County Council and the government has declined to intervene.

Coking coal from the mine, to be used in producing steel, would "drive forward green energy projects", Copeland mayor Mike Starkie claimed.

Opponents say the site will cause significant environmental damage.

Mr Starkie said he believed people across West Cumbria were overwhelmingly in favour of the scheme as it would "underpin an economic revitalisation" by providing hundreds of jobs.

'Secure employment'

The Conservative mayor said: "This is £160m-worth of private sector investment being injected into a post-Covid economy. It's going to drive forward the West Cumbrian economy, creating a lot of opportunity for the people who live here.

"This is about fixing the problem [of local deprivation] permanently by putting people into good, sound, secure employment.

"Whether it's solar, wave, nuclear power, it's all going to need significant amounts of steel. At the moment, there's no economic way of making steel without coking coal.

"People have just got to open their eyes and take a balanced view on this," he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

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The mine's coking coal could be used in wind turbines, like these near Whitehaven, the mayor says

Woodhouse Colliery, proposed by the firm West Cumbria Mining, has permission to operate until 2049.

After the government announced it would not call in the project, the chairman of its Climate Change Committee, Lord Deben, wrote to planning minister Robert Jenrick warning the mine would "commit the UK to emissions from coking coal, for which there may be no domestic use after 2035".

Groups such as Extinction Rebellion Cumbria and Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole have voiced opposition too, while South Lakes Lib Dem MP Tim Farron described the scheme as "an almighty backwards step" and "a disaster for our children's future".

Greenpeace and environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg are among others to have expressed concerns.

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