Cumbria coal mine: Tory MPs urge council to give plans the green light

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe new mine was due to be built in Whitehaven

More than 40 Conservative MPs are calling for the UK's first new deep coal mine in 30 years to be given the go-ahead.

Plans to open the West Cumbria mine are on hold over climate change concerns.

Cumbria County Council had originally backed the scheme but is now reviewing its decision.

The MPs - many from former mining areas in the North of England - say blocking the project would pose "a serious risk to Cumbria's economic growth".

In a letter to the council's Labour leader, they argue that the mine, in Whitehaven, West Cumbria, would fall "within the government agendas for net-zero carbon emission by 2050.

The MPs' letter was also signed by local Conservative leaders including Mike Starkie, Mayor of Copeland Borough Council and Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley.

One signatory, Tory MP for Workington Mark Jenkinson, accused Labour of "failing workers in our industrial heartlands and denying more than 500 well-paid jobs in Cumbria".

The mine's supporters say using British coal would save the carbon emitted by shipping it from abroad.

But Labour's shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has argued that 85% of coal due to be produced by the mine is earmarked for export.

The suggestion that British coal is needed for UK steel is contentious.

My enquiries among steel firms suggest that Cumbrian coal would save them some cash by allowing orders to be more flexible.

Other industry figures I approached said coal supplies were plentiful on the world market - and that Cumbrian coal was not essential for them.

The MPs' letter suggests that plans for the mine "fall within the government agendas for net zero emissions by 2050".

But the government's independent advisory committee on climate change strongly opposes the mine, warning that any jobs it creates will be temporary, and that approving the project will undermine the PM's global leadership on the climate.

Labour wants the government to invest in low-carbon steel manufacture.

The UK is due to host a climate change conference this year and Mr Miliband said building the mine would "undermine our credibility both at home and abroad".

"People in Cumbria deserve good, secure jobs and there are so many crying out to be done in the green industries of the future," he added.

The council granted permission to the project for the third time in October, but said it would reconsider following guidance from the government's advisory Climate Change Committee.

The committee had said steel firms must stop burning coal by 2035 in order to meet the government's carbon emission targets.

Even if Cumbrian councillors do approve the project, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick could still overrule them by cancelling the plans - and he may come under pressure to do so.

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