Gaming Editor Louis Wright condemns the Government for the “absolutely indefensible” decision to approve the West Cumbria Mining Project
Coal mines and their related fossil fuels are emblematic of a by-gone age for Britain; a time when the working class were poor, cold and destitute, the air the people breathed was contaminated with countless pollutants, and the ruling class oppressed with their iron will. It is fitting, therefore, that in the modern age the British Government has made the decision to open the first coal mine since the 1990s.
The West Cumbria Mining Project, approved by the local council in 2020, has seen a string of controversy since its inception. The project was shut down in 2021 swiftly before the COP26 Climate Conference in Glasgow, only to be re-approved by Michael Gove in December 2022. His decision, driven by the fact that he is “satisfied that there is currently a UK and European market for the coal” and that in addition to it being used as a fuel source will also be used to manufacture steel.
This decision has not been without backlash. Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), described the project as “absolutely indefensible” and that in its approval the UK would no longer be a leading example on handling climate change. The ironically named Simon Stiell, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), commented that the UK’s “Actions must align with the rhetoric”; criticising the UK that despite their conviction in holding other countries to improving their approach on climate change, they do not follow their own word.
The controversy has culminated in Friends of the Earth filing a legal challenge against the government’s decision in the High Court. It is the hope of the group that the challenge and potential hearings will see the project scrapped.
Primarily the mine is utterly pointless for its intended purposes. While intended to be used to mine coal for the production of steel, offsetting the losses in not importing from Russia. However the only major steel production companies in the UK, British Steel and Tata, will not be using the coal due to high sulphur levels in the coal or being able to source the carbon from elsewhere.
The harm that the mine will do to the planet and the precedent its existence sets could cause irreparable damage. In 2021, worldwide emission of CO2 from coal was equivalent to 15 billion tonnes, almost 3 billion more tonnes than from oil. With the opening of the new West Cumbria Mine this number is expected to increase as more coal is added to the global coal economy. Moreover, if the West Cumbria Mine sees success, it will likely result in the opening of more coal mines across the country, further exasperating the climate catastrophe.
The irony of a Conservative Government opening the first British coal mines in 3 decades to turn a profit, when it was the hand of Margaret Thatcher that closed the coal mines to destroy worker’s unions and turn a greater profit from importing coal, is not lost. In a world that is further and further ravaged by the damage of global warming from pollutants found in fuels like coal, opening a new coal mine despite promises to lower CO2 emissions is ludicrous at best and actively malevolent at worst.
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