below is our evidence to the public inquiry – please do feel free to use this as inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate.
Our evidence is not a full list by any means – for example we havn’t mentioned the re-routing of the Wainwright Coast to Coast or the fact that this area is the last breeding place in England of the black guillemot.
In conclusion we have said :
“Radiation Free Lakeland strongly urge the Planning Inspector to consider issues which he may initially have felt were outside the scope of this Inquiry but which have been central to our concerns from the outset. Issues including nuclear safety and drinking water quality. Issues which may in the final analysis be of even more overwhelming concern than climate impacts. Nuclear impacts would be catastrophic for the immediate and long term future and viability of not only Cumbria’s health and safety but the health and safety of our neighbouring countries. Our final thought is to leave the image of our first thought upon seeing West Cumbria Mining’s vision of the coal mine. It looks uncannily similar to the view of the Chernobyl sarcophagus and for those living in the shadow of Sellafield looks like the threat of a nuclear sacrifice zone rather than a promise of a “green mine.”
We urge the Planning Inspector to overturn Cumbria County Council’s approval for this uniquely dangerous coal mine.“
Please do write to the Planning Inspectorate, include your name and address and write before May 6th to this address, if you would like to speak at the inquiry please do let the Planning Inspectorate know.
Quote reference ‘APP/H0900/V/21/3271069
By post. (please send 3 copies written in black if possible)
Letters can be sent to:
Ms Elizabeth Humphrey
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/J Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol, BS1 6PN
Our full letter is below (and you can see original with images here)– please do use for inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate
Applicant’s name: West Cumbria Mining Ltd
1st May 2021
Call-in reference: APP/H0900/V/21/3271069
Dear Planning Inspectorate,
Rule 6 Status Withdrawal
Thank you for awarding Radiation Free Lakeland (RaFL) Rule 6 status. On reflection we formally request withdrawal from Rule 6. The reason for this is that RaFL does not have the funding to withstand demands for costs from other parties resulting from the Inquiry, our experience is that West Cumbria Mining may aggresively seek costs from us (evidence below).
Thank you for the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry. I formally request permission to submit Radiation Free Lakeland’s evidence verbally at the Inquiry.
I request that the evidence below is considered by the Inquiry.
Radiation Free Lakeland
Radiation Free Lakeland was formed in 2008 specifically to oppose the plan for Geological Disposal of nuclear wastes. This we did sucessfully when Cumbria withdrew from the then Managing Radioactive Wastes Safely “steps towards Geological Disposal” in 2013. (1)
Other successful campaigns have included the prevention of lower levels of radioactive wastes being buried at the old Keekle Head open cast coal mine site Keekle Head, Near Workington, Copeland, a former open cast coal mine whose owners reneged on an agreement to remediate the site. (2)
On behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole I took on a legal challenge with the help of lawyers Leigh Day (3) against the County Council’s original planning approval. That challenge has been successful in that we engaged the interest and energy of climate activists to oppose the plan and West Cumbria Mining were forced back to the drawing board with a new ‘amended’ planning application.
Brief Time- Line of the Legal Challenge
31st May 2017 – West Cumbria Mining applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permision for a new underground coal mine with coking coal intended for use in the steel industry and middlings coal intended as a fuel source for other industrial uses.
March 2019 – Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission.
June 21st 2019 – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole wrote to Cumbria County Council pointing out that their flawed decision justified a reconsideration. The letter addressed a number of legal issues, including Cumbria County Council’s failures to consider:Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the mining operations, the need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal, the Government’s Net Zero target (4)
The Secretary of State had also been asked by Tim Farron MP and KCCH and others to call in the decision for his consideration.
October 31st Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee reconsidered their resolution and once again resolved unanimously to grant consent. At that meeting I took a video (5) . A key paragraph, tellingly not included in the official minutes, exposes the huge assumptions the Council is making about so the called “substitution” economic/green house gas argument supposedly in favour of the coal mine without the evidence to back it up
““…our view is that it wasn’t necessary to [take GHG into account] and that is because we rely on basically supply and demand laws of economics to do so; our argument all along has been that this proposal would substitute for the current GHGs which emanate from existing setups that we have; we import…lots of coal from Europe, sorry from America and elsewhere at great cost – this coking coal which West Cumbria might generate would arguably be much more competitive because it is closer to the actual steel producers than the American coal or the Australian coal; and because of that – being more competitive – it is likely that the steel-makers themselves would turn to West Cumbria Mining to place orders, at the expense of those coking plants in America, and as a result, we felt there had been a carbon neutral balance because those plants in America were likely to reduce their supply of coal, and as a result of that would produce less CO2 emissions and eventually what you’d end up is a balancing act between what is happening in West Cumbria in UK and what is happening in America in terms of CO2 emissions. There also – there might be – some advantages as well because you don’t have the transport costs involved in taking coking coal 7,000 km across the Atlantic ocean to get here; so that was the premise of our argument and remains the premise of our argument; and we believe that we did take into account fairly the issue to do with GHG…”
It is also extremely baffling to me that, in response to the submissions I and others made at the meeting, including outlining the Government’s commitment to decarbonisation of the steel industry, Committee members continued to push certain myths about the positive climate change impact of the coal mine. The official minutes of the meeting record that:
““Members understood the strength of feeling amongst the objectors to the application, but felt that to move forward with climate change steel would be needed to produce wind farms, trains and bus infrastructure, all of which were part of the plans for a greener future. There was no other way of producing these at present.”
November 2019 – the Secretary of State resolved not to call in the decision (In the same month the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – tasked with delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility)
The application by Marianne Bennett V Cumbria County Council for Judicial Review was filed on 12th December 2019. The Grounds included failure to consider Green House Gas emissions, 15% extraction and ‘need’ for Middlings coal and failure to have regard to the introduction of the net zero target by 2050 into the Climate Change Act 2008 on 27thJune 2019.
7th May 2020 – The High Court made an order listing the hearing for the 18th May 2020. Coincidentally, on the same date, West Cumbria Mining submitted the amendments to its planning application to Cumbria County Council. West Cumbria Mining proposed that they would amend their planning application to exclude Middlings Coal – ie the Middlings Coal would undergo a new process on site to render it into Coking Coal. In order to do this the overall quality of the coking coal would be reduced to include a much greater ash and sulphur content .
13th May 2020– Marianne Bennett withdraws the now superceded Judicial Review challenge against the original planning application.
Battle Over Costs and why we request withdrawal from Rule 6 Status
West Cumbria Mining (the Interested Party in our 2019/20 Legal Challenge to Cumbria County Council) applied to the High Court for their costs of over £26,000 to be paid for by myself, Marianne Bennett. The Judge – Mr Justice Dove ruled that “In short, there is in my view no substance to the Interested Party’s application for costs against the Claimant and it is dismissed.”(6). Copy of Final Judgement attached.
CLIMATE IS NOT THE ONLY ISSUE:
- WATER IMPACTS
- NUCLEAR IMPACTS
- COAL AUTHORITY LICENCES/PREDETERMINATION
We note that the Environment Agency and United Utilities initially expressed concerns regarding the impact of on water. These concerns have been “satisfied” but there is no evidence to suggest how. The concerns consist of two main strands.
- ANHYDRITE MINE. The first concern involved West Cumbria Mining’s use of the anhydrite mine (this mine fed the old Marchon plant, the biggest single site producer of sulphuric acid in Europe leaving a toxic legacy in the old mine workings). WCM no longer propose to dewater the anhydrite mine, due to objections by the EA and others regarding the dewatering of the contaminated flood water to the Irish Sea (8). The proposal remains to use part of the existing drift tunnels to access the coal measures, those which are not flooded, and to then dig new drifts to access the remaining deposits. The drift access tunnels have been redesigned to pass OVER rather than through the flooded Anhydrite mine. We have searched for previous examples of drift tunnels being excavated in the geology above existing mines full of contaminated water - but have failed to do so. We propose that Cumbria County Council (and the regulators) have blindly accepted a “solution” which appears to us as being just as risky as direct dewatering of the Anhydrite mine into the sea. We assume the drift tunnels are at risk of “expected subsidence” in the same way as the mine itself is and that the act of excavation will impact on the geology above the flooded anhydrite mine? This has not been questioned by Cumbria County Council.
- IMPACTS ON GROUNDWATER AND POTABLE WATER SUPPLY TO WEST CUMBRIA.
Image: Egremont boreholes in red. The Marchon plant at Whitehaven is out of the photo top left. Sellafield is the concrete mass at bottom right
The potential for Contamination of the Egremont boreholes used by UU as a potable drinking water source for parts of West Cumbria has been identified. In ‘answering’ the Environment Agency and United Utiliity concerns about impacts on West Cumbria’s ground water, ESI consulting have advised WCM that “..United Utilities who have noted that their groundwater abstractions at Egremont are understood to draw water via the local faults. Their concern being the potential for hydraulic connection between the boreholes and the Byerstead Fault and potential to draw contaminated groundwater from the Marchon site. (9).
Image: Whitehaven news April 14th 2021
The reply goes on to say that: “We have appended annotated versions of some of the key cross-sections from previous URS reports (which the EA have copies of) which show the conceptual model at the Marchon site in more detail (as requested by the EA). The key thing to note is that infiltrating water at the site is thought to move toward the Byerstead Fault via solution features (possibly enhanced by former acid spills at the site as referred to in the EA letter) in the dolomitised lower sections of the St Bees Evaporite (as shown on URS Figure 8) or by direct infiltration to the Fault where it crops out beneath the site.” This does not satisfactorily answer the EA and UU concerns, despite this the County Council have gone along with the explanation that the potential for contamination of groundwater which supplies much of West Cumbria is acceptable.
Incredibly for an area famed for its lakes and fresh water, West Cumbria’s water supply is already stressed and subject to complaint as an ongoing campaign can testify : West Cumbria Water Supply (Save our Water Services) (10). We note that the Sellafield site is far nearer to the Egremont boreholes than the Marchon plant and have asked for example the British Geological Society if there has been any geological survey on the
hydrological impacts on groundwater from such a big and long lived mine situated between the old chemical works of Marchon and the Sellafield site with its ongoing leaks of radioactive and chemical wastes to groundwater (11). The BGS replied that they have not surveyed this issue.
BYERSTEAD FAULT How Much Water? - What Impacts Could This Have
eg on Induced Siesmicity?
A related concern brushed aside by Cumbria County Council is exactly how much water the developers intend to draw from the onshore Byerstead Fault. The developers say that on the one hand the amount would be “negligible’ and on the other that they intend to solely use water from the dewatering process and ‘rainwater’ for all processes on site. Given that it would take (at the least) five tonnes of water to wash and process 1 tonne of coal the amount of water necessary would be very significant. The Officers’ Report for 2 October 2020 claims that issues raised by Keep Coal in the Hole regarding the Byerstead Fault were dealt with in the Report for 19 March 2019 (12), but the discussion at paras.6.325-6.329 only related to the avoidance of water ingress into the mine, and not the potential activation of fault lines. There is no consideration of any seismic effects which might be induced by dewatering. The Officers’ Report for 2 October 2020 also relies on the fact that the effects of mining under the seabed can be scrutinised in greater detail by the Marine Management Organisation during the licence process, but this is not an answer to potential risk that seismic effects will occur as a result of onshore water abstraction from the Byerstead Fault.
The council officers report for the Development Control and Regulation Committee meeting of 2nd October stated (7.205) that “Issues in respect of the Byerstead Fault were addressed in my original Committee Report.” This is not the case. The issue is that WCM say they will be using the Byerstead Fault as a primary fresh water source but refuse to reveal how much. The Officers report at 7.122 states “ The coal processing plant would recycle an anticipated 98% of surface water from the site”. This is meaningless in the context of HOW MUCH WATER would be abstracted by WCM from the Byerstead Fault due to ingress from newly mined voids at peak production. In the Applicant’s words “once Woodhouse Colliery is operational there will be a requirement to continuously pump water out of the mine in order to avoid any accumulation of water underground which could result in flooding of the mine workings ... and as a result WCM does not envisage the requirement for an abstraction licence for water”. Conflictingly, West Cumbria Mining also indicate that they will use a “grouting ahead” technique to avoid water ingress into the mine (see e.g. ES Ch.5 para.5.5.13 and the Officers’ Report for 19 March 2019 at paras.6.325 and 6.328), and that anecdotal historical evidence suggests that there will be very little flow of groundwater into the mine due to the tight matrix of St Bees Sandstone (see ES Ch.12 sec.12.5.5). The Officers’ Report for 19 March 2019 notes at para.6.329 that “the removal of water from the mine would require an abstraction licence”. There is no indication in ES Ch.5 of how water will be obtained if the mines experience lower levels of water ingress than needed for onsite processes. Sellafield has expressed support for West Cumbria Mining but we doubt that largesse would extend to offering up Sellafield’s dedicated water supplies from Wastwater, the Rivers Ehen and Calder and boreholes in the area (13).
A reply from the British Geological Survey states “In answer to your questions, BGS has given no advice to West Cumbria Mining as to the water abstraction rates likely to be available from the Byerstead Fault. We also hold no groundwater monitoring or surveys undertaken for West Cumbria Mining” Given the importance of the West Cumbria Aquifer to West Cumbria’s freshwater supply from boreholes at Egremont and the impacts on geology, this failure by the regulators and the Council to address the impact of fresh water abstraction from a named and important geological fault could be seen as reckless . We note that Cumbria County Council’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan 2015-2030 POLICY DC20 for the water environment states “Proposals for developments should demonstrate that they would have no unacceptable quantitative or qualitative adverse effects on the water environment, both within the application site and its surroundings, including surface waters, coastal waters, private water supplies and groundwater resources.” Clearly West Cumbria Mining’s plan cannot demonstrate there are no adverse impacts on groundwater.
Radiation Free Lakeland were first alerted to this coal mine because of its close proximity to Sellafield and Drigg. Alongside the close proximity to the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site, we are also painfully aware of the legacy of Sellafield’s continuing discharges to the Irish Sea and have carried out our own citizen science recording of the manmade radioactive wastes washing up onto our beaches from Sellafield (14).
Image: New Scientist 2015
Shocking State of the World’s Riskiest Nuclear Waste Site by Fred Pearce
The coal mine would lie directly beneath a named nuclear waste dump known as the Sellafield/Cumbrian Mud Patch on the Irish Sea bed. This is where the majority of nuclear discharge has ended up rather than being “dispersed and diluted” as Sellafield intended when sending the wastes down a pipeline into the Irish Sea. We have commissioned Tim Deere-Jones to write a report (15) directly relevant to the coal mine plan and we believe the report will be submitted to you separately by the author: A briefing paper by Tim Deere-Jones. WEST CUMBRIA MINING: WOODHOUSE COLLIERY PROPOSAL RADIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS of POTENTIAL SEABED SUBSIDENCE SEISMICITY & “FAULT RE-ACTIVATION” beneath The CUMBRIAN MUD PATCH: INDUCED BY “MASS REMOVAL”, RAPID EXTRACTION & VOID SPACE CREATION.
COAL AUTHORITY LICENCES / PREDETERMINATION
Two applications for licence variation ( time extension beyond the normal eight years) have been received by the Coal Authority from West Cumbria Mining. A decision is pending. The original licences were given over the heads of the public and county councillors as “permitted development” in 2013/14 despite the CEO of West Cumbria Mining’s previous venture Itmsoil having just gone into administration to avoid paying creditors (16). We have asked for sight of the new licence variations but have been told they are being witheld from public view. We are puzzled as to how the public can properly take part in a public inquiry into a business venture which has applied for secretive licences which the public are being denied sight of. What we can see is that one of the two licences is for the Whitehaven Offshore Area 2 which includes an area of zero coal resource (according to the British Geological Survey) but which is adjacent to the area in the frame for a deep Geological Disposal Facility on which the CEO of West Cumbria Mining has been appointed to advise Government (17). As cronyism goes that is a belter. Nuclear Free Local Authorities have also expressed concern over this cosy and concerning relationship (18).
Radiation Free Lakeland strongly urge the Planning Inspector to consider issues which he may initially have felt were outside the scope of this Inquiry but which have been central to our concerns from the outset (19). Issues including nuclear safety and drinking water quality. Issues which may in the final analysis be of even more overwhelming concern than climate impacts. Nuclear impacts would be catastrophic for the immediate and long term future and viability of not only Cumbria’s health and safety but the health and safety of our neighbouring countries. Our final thought is to leave the image of our first thought upon seeing West Cumbria Mining’s vision of the coal mine. It looks uncannily similar to the view of the Chernobyl sarcophagus and for those living in the shadow of Sellafield looks like the threat of a nuclear sacrifice zone more than a promise of a “green mine.”
We urge the Planning Inspector to overturn Cumbria County Council’s approval for this uniquely dangerous coal mine.
Images: West Cumbria Mining / Chernobyl Sarcophagus
Marianne Bennett (aka artist Marianne Birkby)
On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland,
(1) GDF plan halted 2013 https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/2013/02/06/eddie-martins-speech-to-cabinet-on-30th-january/
(2). Keekle Head https://www.whitehavennews.co.uk/news/17139603.protesters-argue-against-the-burial-of-low-level-n-waste/
(3) Legal Challenge https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/cumbriancoal2/
(4) Leigh Day Judicial Review granted permission https://www.leighday.co.uk/latest-updates/news/2020-news/cumbrian-campaign-group-granted-permission-for-judicial-review-of-county-councils-approval-of-coal-mine/#:~:text=Campaign%20group%2C%20Keep%20Cumbrian%20Coal,the%20UK%20to%20be%20built.&text=On%2020%20June%202019%2C%20Leigh%20Day%20wrote%20to%20Cumbria%20County%20Council.
(6) Copy attached of Final Judgement between Marianne Bennett and Cumbria County Council and West Cumbria Mining
(7) “Despite the applicant declaring on the company website that the raw material has very low ash and moderate sulphur levels, the key coking characteristics reflected in the current set of conditions are already and generously set high, at 8% for ash and 1.25% for sulphur. The applicant now requests to relax this to 9% and 2% respectively but is not offering a credible reason why this is necessary”. https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2020/06/15/another-excellent-letter-of-objection-to-the-coal-mine-plan-write-today/
(8) Anhydrite mine https://copeland.moderngov.co.uk/documents/s7511/West%20Cumbria%20Mining%204-17-9007-0F2.pdf
(9) Potential for Contamination of Egremont boreholes used by UU as potable drinking water source for parts of West Cumbria (Appendix 12-9 Response to EA Comments by ESI Consulting - attached)
(10) “This group is dedicated to improving the water quality in West Cumbria and has been created as a result of the recent introduction of borehole water into our supply which many feel is unsatisfactory to say the least”. .https://www.facebook.com/groups/253953375095270/
(11) Groundwater monitoring at Sellafield https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/705993/Groundwater_Monitoring_at_Sellafield_-_Annual_Data_Review_2016.pdf
“workers repairing the leak were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from discussing the details of the work, however Sellafield has denied this. The spokesman said: "We have been open and transparent about this incident. We have kept our regulators and stakeholders informed throughout and published details on our website on 18 November.” Last month there was another leak in the older part of the site and work is due to take place in the new year. Sellafield said: "The current suspected leak is in an inaccessible part of the building, which is underground.
(12) Byerstead Fault questions asked of the EA and BGS https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/west_cumbria_mining_abstraction_2
(13) Troubled Waters https://mariannewildart.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/request-for-a-question-in-parliament-on-cumbrias-troubled-waters/amp/
(14) Citizen Science - Radioactive Beaches https://electricityinfo.org/news/sellafield-103/
(15) A briefing paper by Tim Deere-Jones. WEST CUMBRIA MINING: WOODHOUSE COLLIERY PROPOSAL RADIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS of POTENTIAL SEABED SUBSIDENCE SEISMICITY & “FAULT RE-ACTIVATION” beneath The CUMBRIAN MUD PATCH: INDUCED BY “MASS REMOVAL”, RAPID EXTRACTION & VOID SPACE CREATION. https://issuu.com/wildart/docs/west_cumbria_mining_-_radiological_implications_of
(16) Cronyism https://www.lakesagainstnucleardump.com/post/hot-nuclear-waste-and-duff-high-ash-high-sulphur-coal-for-steel-top-trump-cronies
(17) Coal Authority https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2021/01/29/developers-ask-coal-authority-for-license-to-drill-tell-kwasi-kwarteng-to-veto-the-diabolic-plan-or-at-least-call-for-a-public-consultation/
(18) CUMBRIA, NUCLEAR WASTE, A GEOLOGICAL ‘DISPOSAL’ FACILITY (GDF) AND THE PROPOSED COAL MINE PETE ROCHE NUCLEAR FREE LOCAL AUTHORITIES ENGLISH FORUM 5TH MARCH 2021 https://www.nuclearpolicy.info/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Cumbria_Coal_GDF_PR.pdf
(19) enclosed The Pit and the Polar bear - comic book.