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PLANS to sink the first new deep coal mine in Britain for decades are being backed by the National Union of Mineworkers.
The support comes in the face of intense opposition from environmental campaigners, who will protest tomorrow in the Cumbrian town of Workington against the proposal to drive into coal reserves beneath the Irish Sea.
West Cumbria Mining wants to establish the new mine, Woodhouse Colliery, on a former industrial site at Whitehaven.
If the plan goes ahead, the mine will produce three million tonnes of coal a year – roughly the same as the amount produced at Britain’s last deep coal mine, Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire, which closed in December, 2015.
The Whitehaven proposal has met with widespread condemnation from environmental campaigners. As well as being opposed to the burning of coal in principle, they object to the Cumbrian site partly because of its proximity to the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary Chris Kitchen said: “The mine is planned to be built on the former Marchon industrial site near Woodhouse and has the potential to create 500 jobs. The site has been designed to minimise environmental impact.
“If the company do what they say they are going to do, I don’t see where the objections can be, other than ‘not in my back yard.’ The NUM would be in favour of this mine going ahead.”
He said modern mining could be carried out in a way which “alleviates environmental concerns.”
Mr Kitchen added: “We manage the effects of coal mining in a safe and responsible way. All the concerns can be addressed by modern methods.”
The union opposes the controversial fracking process of gas extraction.
“With fracking, you have no idea what is going on underground,” Mr Kitchen said. “But with coal mining, you are there. We know what we are doing, so I am in favour of new deep coal mines – and we need the jobs.”
Opponents of the new mine will demonstrate tomorrow from 10.30am in Workington town centre.
Campaigner Marianne Birkby said the protest will “generally show resistance to this diabolic plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK in over 30 years.”
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