Minister Sees ‘Compelling Reasons’ to Block U.K. Coal Mine

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Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there are “very compelling reasons” to scrap plans for the U.K.’s first new deep coal mine in three decades, amid an outcry over environmental concerns.

Initially, ministers decided not to intervene in a proposal for a mine for coking coal to be used in the steel industry, in Cumbria, northwest England. But after campaigners and the government’s own advisers on the Climate Change Committee (CCC) said the plan undermined Boris Johnson’s green credentials, ministers decided to review it.

Now Kwarteng, one of the most senior members of Johnson’s government, suggested the decision to stop the proposal going ahead had effectively been taken. His comments are likely to be controversial as the government review has not yet been completed.

Asked why ministers did not simply announce they’re blocking the plan, Kwarteng told BBC radio on Wednesday: “Essentially what we’ve done is pretty much that.”

He continued: “We’re looking at it, it’s part of a planning process. Initially I think the relevant secretary of state said we wouldn’t go against the local planning decision but he’s now looking again and I think there are very compelling reasons to do what the CCC suggested and not open the mine.”

Kwarteng said he was “always sympathetic” to the CCC, adding: “Our goals are largely aligned.” His comments came as the government unveiled plans to slash the amount of carbon dioxide spewed out by factories and other industrial processes by two-thirds within the next 15 years.

The government announced last week it had intervened in the planning decision over whether to build the controversial mine -- snarling up planning for West Cumbria Mining Ltd.’s Woodhouse Colliery in Whitehaven. The proposal has already been considered three times by the local council.

Cumbria County Council supported the mine in October, a decision backed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick at the time. The council then backtracked, saying it needed to reconsider the proposal in the light of the latest advice from the CCC, which in December recommended a “carbon budget” for the U.K. that included an emissions reduction of 78% by 2035, relative to 1990 levels.

Jenrick’s department cited that as a reason for calling in the decision on the mine. But the move was met with fury by some Conservative members of Parliament. Mark Jenkinson, who represents a constituency in the area, accused the government of “a capitulation to climate alarmists” and said the project would have created 500 jobs and a further 2,000 in the supply chain.

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