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How the proposed Woodhouse Colliery could look

Local leaders have told Mr Gove that he must give it the go ahead, slashing emissions produced when the coal is shipped over for British steel from abroad. They also argue that a coal mine in the UK would reduce Britain’s reliance on Russia for the resource.

But speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service this week, MPI boss Mr McDonald said that the steel industry is looking at new ways to decarbonise.

He argues that while the Woodhouse Colliery’s produce will be used for steel not energy, metallurgical coal and thermal coal are both burnt producing harmful carbon dioxide.

Mr McDonald added: “There are only two potential customers for this steel in the UK, one of them (British Steel) couldn’t use the coal from Cumbria because it’s not of the right quality.

“That leaves Tata Steel and they said they can use a small amount of the coal.

“The other argument that’s come to the fore is reducing our reliance on Russian coal.”

But he said: “The one company that could use this coal, Tata Steel have said they don’t buy Russian coal anyway.”

Speaking at a public inquiry into the mine, West Cumbria Mining’s solicitor said it is a “myth” that “we and the EU do not need any coal mines and can continue to offshore our emissions for the next 30 plus years, by importing coal or by importing steel products.”

He said that the UK cannot “turn our backs on jobs and economic growth because of a conservative estimate of 9,000 green jobs for Cumbria, which are possible, but for which there are absolutely no plans, still less funding or consent.”

But Mr McDonald said: “All of the major steel companies in Europe are developing new technology. There’s a decarbonisation target by 2050 but most companies in Europe are looking to do it much sooner.”