New coal mine in England faces backlash despite promises of much needed employment

Environmentalists are furious, after the UK government allowed plans for the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years to go ahead in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

West Cumbria Mining, has pledged the creation of 500 jobs directly at the mine and many more in the supply chain – granting them support from Labour, Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats in the local councils.

There has been renewed widespread criticism of the UK government for allowing the mine to go forward, following a warning in an open letter from Dr James Hansen, a leading climate scientist. 

Haig Colliery was the main employer for decades in Whitehaven, pictured here in 1983. (Photo: By Chris Allen, CC BY-SA 2.0,

The area of Harbour North in Whitehaven is inside the top 3% most deprived areas in England and as such some are welcoming the investment.

Mike Starkie, the mayor of Copeland said that this mine is set to “underpin an economic revitalisation” in the area. “This is £160 Million worth of private sector investment being injected into a post covid economy”

“This is about fixing the problem of local deprivation permanently by putting people into good, sound, secure employment.” Mr Starkie said. 

Greta Thunburg, is one of the high profile environmentalist critics over the UK governments decision to allow plans for the mine to go ahead. (Photo: By Lëa-Kim Châteauneuf – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

But Mike Berners-Lee, who is based in Cumbria, and who was a co-author in a report for Green Alliance, a think tank working to ensure UK political leaders deliver ambitious solutions to global environmental issues, is sceptical on this.

“The mine suggests but does not guarantee around 500 jobs (that is 160 tonnes of CO2 per job per year). I estimate that less than 3% of revenue from the mine will go on employee pay” he said. 

Local Les Johnson, argues that the coal mine will be better for the environment, “what is better? Bringing coking coal halfway around the world to make steal or a supply that is on your own doorstep. It’s better for the environment with less travel and better for the economy with British Jobs. Win win all round for West Cumbria” he said. 

Mike Berners-Lee, argues that this is not the case – “will transport emissions from UK coal be lower than from Australian coal? Yes, but transport emissions are so trivial compared to the use of coal that playing the transport argument has to be a wilful misdirection of attention,” said Mike.

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