An opencast mine located at Druridge Bay in Northumberland has been stalled after Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid asked Northumberland County Council to provide more details about the project.
Northumberland County Council had approved the opencast mine in July this year. The project is worth about £120 million and would see the mining contractor Banks Mining extract up to 3 million tonnes of coal from the mine.
However, now Javid has requested that Northumberland County Council provide information to find out whether the project has taken measures to conform with Government policies related to climate change, conserving and improving the natural surroundings, and ensuring that the mining contractor makes use of sustainable coal extraction methods.
Furthermore, this public inquiry will also check whether the project is in line with the Government’s pledge to replace power generated by coal, the amended guidelines issued by the Government related to renewable and low carbon energy, and whether the project fulfils the development plan for the region.
Northumberland County Council was taken by surprise by this move. However, the opencast mine has been controversial from the outset.
A council spokesperson stated that the council was aware that the application for the opencast mine would be controversial and that is why it had endeavoured to get different views and opinions before approving the plan.
The spokesperson added that all members believed that the opencast mine would reap economic benefits not just for the local community but also for Northumberland as a whole. The project would have provided 100 job opportunities, and the mining contractor is well-known for ensuring growth in the regions in which it operates. However, now that the Communities Secretary is calling for a review, doubts have been cast on the benefits that the development would have offered.
Javid’s move has been applauded by environmental campaigners. Friends of the Earth campaigner Guy Shrubsole stated that he hopes that the Government has finally realised that extracting coal from mines goes against the climate deal signed in Paris and that the UK needs to amend its planning rules to prevent extraction of fossil fuels.