Woodhouse Mine, Whitehaven, West Cumbria

The Woodhouse issue should be treated on the facts. There is an AECOM report commissioned by West Cumbrian Mining which I am using for some facts below and facts I have googled from sound sources. viz. International Energy Agency.

In this document GHG (greenhouse gas emissions) cover all the carbon gases to be found in the mine. In calculating quantities these gases are quantified using their CO2 equivalents.


1. The world produced 18699.9m tonne of steel in 2019. A 3.4 % increase over 2018. World steel production increases every year unless there is a depression.

2. Every tonne of steel produced causes 1.85 tonne of CO2 to be released.

3. In 1875 the UK produced 47% of the world’s pig iron and 40% of our output went to the USA. In 1950 we produced 150m tonne of steel per annum. Today we produce 61.5m tonne or 0.033 % of the world total.  There is an enormous variation in the price of steel at present   Coking coal ranges in price between $195 and $218 per tonne depending on world conditions not where it comes from.

4. Woodhouse will be producing 3.1m tonne of coal which is .053% of the world’s total. This is a negligible amount and Woodhouse will have no effect whatsoever on the worldwide price of coking coal and subsequently the price of steel and global warming. The coking coal and steel we produce is less than 0.05% of the world market and will be substituted for it elsewhere in the world in any case.

5. The AECOM report points out in para 4.5 that:

“ Any CHG gas emissions at the steel works from the production of coal mined from the Proposed Development would not therefore be additional (to the world’s gas emissions) as these will occur whether or not the Proposed (Woodhouse) is permitted to operate.”

6. Coking coal is required for the production of cement and food manufacture.  The world produced 5,845m tonne of coking coal in 2018.  2.7m tonne is produced in the UK at present. 11.9 m tonne is imported. Woodhouse proposes to mine 3.1m tonne pa of coking coal or 0.053% of the world total but that increases indigenous coking coal to 5.8 tonne or 40% of our current needs.   Surely that is a good thing! Currently in the UK 2.9m tonne of coking coal is used for steel making and 1.8 m tonne is used for cement and food manufacture.

7. If Woodhouse does not proceed there will be increased imports of coking coal to the UK. The transport cost for the imports causes between 5 and 7 times more Greenhouse gas than that mined in the UK.  That is 34m tonne extra pa GHG’s as a result of importing coking coal rather than using our own.

8. The AECOM report states in para 4.4 that metallurgical coal from the US is the main source of coking coal for steelworks both here and Europe and this will continue if the proposed development is not permitted.

AECOM also states in para 4.5 that emissions at world steelworks would not be added to as these will occur whether or not the proposed development (Woodhouse) is permitted.

In para 7.7 AECOM says that emissions at Woodhouse from the coking coal would amount to 366,564 tonnes of CO2 per annum or 18,328,183 tonnes over the 50 year life of the mine. The majority of the emissions (73%) are associated with fugitive methane emissions which are likely to be captured and utilised from the fifth year of the operation. This results in the 366,564 figure including the change in land use by revegetation prior to the start of the operations.

9. In para 3.21 the report says the development will be carbon neutral by 2050 ie in 30 year’s time.

Very importantly what it does not say is that over that period Woodhouse will have contributed enormously to the West Cumbrian community.  Not just with the 1,550 jobs and apprenticeships but with 10’s thousands trees planted,  £100m invested in the community, a resurrected museum and   footpath and cycle ways.

How much is all that worth at a time when the future of tens of thousands of jobs at Sellafield down the road are uncertain? I believe an awful lot.



* John Studholme has been a member for 44 years, was a Councillor for 20 plus years, has been Mayor, District Council Chair, affordable housing campaigner and Parliamentary and European candidate. He was Tim Farron’s Campaigns Chair when he was elected and the Lib Dems took control of South Lakeland District Council.

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  • Hannah Giovanna Daws 12th Feb '21 - 12:52pm

    Liberal Democrats should oppose all fossil fuel development. That is the fact of the matter.

  • John Marriott 12th Feb '21 - 1:03pm

    Question 1: Do we want a viable steel industry in this country?
    Question 2: Can high quality steel be produced without the use of coking coal?

    If the answer to Question 1 is YES and the answer to Question 2 is NO, then surely it is best for us to produce our own supplies of that coal rather than rely on imports from dodgy places like Russia. Ms Daws’ statement is just a platitudinous way of ducking the issue. Now THAT’s ‘the fact of the matter’.

  • nigel hunter 12th Feb '21 - 1:12pm

    The benefits to the people of the area,the economy and the environment must be investigated knee jerk emotional responses should not lead the discussion

  • As well as the uses outlined above, small amounts of coal are always going to be needed for heritage railways and similar operations.

    I don’t know much about the pros and cons of this particular proposal, but some fossil fuels from somewhere are always going to be needed. It would be better to acknowledge that and ensure that they come from the cleanest sources possible rather than trying to pretend that they can be done away with altogether.

  • Barry Lofty 12th Feb '21 - 3:04pm

    Sometimes I think the world has gone mad and is totally short of plain old common sense, my favourite phrase, but John Marriott’s post sums up my feelings on this subject and equally applies to others.

  • Jenny Barnes 12th Feb '21 - 3:05pm

    Use less steel. You can build with engineered timber instead, which is arguably carbon negative. Use hydrogen to reduce the iron ore for the steel you still need. Live within our means.
    I expect Peter will be along soon to explain how climate change is not happening.

  • John Marriott 12th Feb '21 - 3:49pm

    @Jennie Barnes
    What on Earth is ‘engineered timber’? Yes, hydrogen could replace coal for recycled steel but not, with current technology, for iron ore. By the way, how much energy will you need to produce the hydrogen in sufficient quantities? We already need a shed load if it’s going to replace natural gas in domestic heating or possibly powering our trains. Then there’s the highly promising hydrogen fuel cell in cars. Perhaps we might bring it back to float our airships, although, given what happened to the Hindenburg in 1937, that’s perhaps not such a good idea.

    Yes, we used to build our Men o’ War out of English oak, which took hundreds of years to grow. That was in the past. I’m talking about the present and, more importantly, the future!

  • Paul Barker 12th Feb '21 - 4:16pm

    The point is that Humanity is drinking in The Last Chance Saloon, while many of the worst effects of Global Warming wont be felt for another Century or Two, 2021 represents our Last best Hope of changing course while there is still time.
    Crucial to that course change will be The Conference which The UK is hosting. Plenty of Countries & International Companies will be looking for excuses to kick the can down the road & the Proposed Mine will give them the perfect excuse, sometimes appearances matter. For Once, Little Old Britain will actually be important & its vital for all our Futures that we dont screw it up.
    This Mine has to be stopped Now.

  • Hannah G Dawson 12th Feb '21 - 4:39pm

    Question 1: Do we want a viable steel industry in this country?
    Question 2: Can high quality steel be produced without the use of coking coal?

    If the goal of this plant would be to use locally-produced coke to avoid importing, why would over 80% of the product be exported?

    This article has a gigantic handwave inside of it. “We’d get the coal coke from elsewhere” is false economics. If we make it more viable to produce steel in the UK, more steel gets produced by the world, net, and the price goes down. That’s more CO2 in the atmosphere.

    There are economic sacrifices to be made by committing to zero fossil fuel development. But it is morally reprehensible to support fossil fuel development, and I think this should be a red line inside the Liberal Democrats.

  • The mine should go ahead if the backers so decide. The desire of some to virtue signal is not a good reason to deny good jobs to an area where they are scarce.

    As pointed out in the report, it will replace coal from other sources so there is no net increase in CO2 emissions.

    Iron ore is comprised of iron oxides, so it needs either carbon or hydrogen to combine with and remove the oxygen. Some processes could potentially reduce the amount of carbon, but AFAIK aren’t yet deployable at scale. Hydrogen would be better because it results in water as the waste product but, again AFAIK, it’s not possible to produce the amount of hydrogen required economically plus existing processes use natural gas.

    But… decision makers have noticed there is a problem (!) so research is ongoing into every aspect of the problem including producing hydrogen by electrolysis of water. What some miss is how R&D works. Typically, for a long, long, long time there is nothing to see and then suddenly the tipping point is reached and it’s all change.

    For example, for years Texas, home of the most ungreen oilmen on the planet, didn’t want to know anything about renewables – until suddenly it did. Now it’s adding solar and wind capacity at breakneck speed and it’s generally agreed that the fossil fuel era is rapidly drawing to a close.

    And my guess is that R&D advances in several fields will make the mine uneconomic long before its backers anticipate.

    For example, solar is on its way to being insanely cheap. See for example this excellent work:


    “In the sunny parts of the world with low costs of capital, labor, and land, we could routinely be seeing unsubsidized solar in the 1-2 cent range.”

    Given the incentives, I anticipate R&D will find a good route to producing steel from hydrogen, that the hydrogen will be produced by electrolysis using solar power and carbon will be out.

    Of course, this is hugely problematic for us. We are too far north and to cloudy to get much benefit from solar and our Hinckley Point power is contracted at 9.25 pence per kWh. Against US cents 1 -2 that gives UK industry a serious cost problem, and not just in steel.

  • nigel hunter 12th Feb '21 - 6:27pm

    FiX The Planet (New Scientist on the net) has an article about artificial irelands where power from offshore wind produces hydrogen which is u sedcfor power.Could this be used to help steel production in the UK?

  • This is a no brainer in so many respects. Do we need steel? I would imagine that any sane person would realise that we do.

    Do we manufacture it here using the cleanes and most up to date technology? The alternative is to close down what remains of our industry, just as we closed down most of steel making and all of our aluminium smelting industry. We are very good at that. We close these industries down removing the employment of thousands then we export the jobs to China or somewhere similar, where the product is manufactured using dirty coal and a process with little concern for the environment. Then we put the product on ships and bring it right round the world at huge environmental cost.

    But it makes our green zealots very happy because they saved the planet and that is what really matters.

  • Jenny Barnes 12th Feb '21 - 8:03pm

    @john marriot
    Try google or wikipedia. Don’t pretend ignorance.

  • Katharine Pindar 12th Feb '21 - 10:44pm

    John Studholme. As you know, John, this issue has divided us here in West Cumbria. I would suggest that the fact of the mine producing only a small amount of coal is a wrong argument – a small evil is still an evil! I am more interested in the fact that the mine will be ‘carbon neutral in 30 years’ time’. I am not prepared to face my good friends’ children with the news that long after you and I are gone they may still be living in a county which opened a new coal mine while they were young. I doubt very much that their career prospects will be affected by it in any way, or that they would want to see local development financed by what they may see as dirty money.

    As another good friend of mine, Professor Terry Sloan, wrote in the local paper, “If we are to continue to be dependent on steel, it is imperative that we master its production by sustainable means such as the use of hydrogen rather than burning coking coal.”

    That is a scientist’s statement against the mine. A politician’s answer (see Paul Barker above, for example) is that for this mine to open in the year that the UK plays host to the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26) is not acceptable, as the increasing national news coverage tends to show. I understand that the county council is having a rethink now, which I am glad of. (Meantime, John, good to see you active as ever, and I hope keeping well. We may yet live to campaign together again to return to Europe!)

  • According to the latest Government statistics , in 2019, 6.5 million tonnes of coal was imported, down by 36 per cent compared to 2018. Net imports accounted for 73 per cent of the UK’s supply. Russia was the UK’s largest supplier of coal imports with a share of 37 per cent. The other main suppliers were the USA with a 27 per cent share and Colombia with a 17 per cent share.

    QUESTION : How does the net carbon footprint of the proposed Cumbrian mine compare with the carbon footprint of transporting and importing coking coal for steel production from the above named countries (some of which have particularly illiberal tendencies on human rights ?

  • I join with Katharine in sending very best wishes to my old friend, John (and to Barbara).

  • >Question 1: Do we want a viable steel industry in this country?
    Well, it wasn’t that long ago that the UK wanted to import Chinese steel…
    It wasn’t that long ago that the UK’s consumption of steel was insufficient to keep a UK steelwork’s in business.
    Also, it wasn’t that long ago that we were talking about a world oversupply of steel and specifically excess capacity within the EU, and where the British steel industry received a degree of protection and investment from the EU.

    Whilst people are making comments about the costs of importing coal/coke, we shouldn’t forget about the sources of ore and other necessary minerals – potentially from the new open-cast mine in Greenland ie. expect most materials to be sourced from outside the UK.

    We have some tough decisions to make.

  • Robin Grayson 13th Feb '21 - 11:29am

    There is a lot of smoke and mirrors around coking coal.
    CO2 emissions from a tiddly litte coal mine in Cumbria have next-to-nought measurable world impact on climate change.
    CO2 is a planet issue and must be tackled planet-wide to have a measurable impact. Rather than rearranging the deckchairs we need to get to grips with the planet-scale before it is too late. We need to shift the coking coal debate from a heated discussion about a tiddly side show to where the current main boom to produce coking coal in vast quantities beyond the wildest imagination. The opencast mine I was involved in EIA at the outset, has superthick seams of coking coal and will soon be 300 metres deep. In less than a year I expect it to produce more coking coal than the tiddly mine in Cumbria. Meanwhile coking coal is now being cranked out from the world’s biggest coking coal mine. Again in Mongolia. It is already so huge: no wonder as its run-of-mine reserves are measured not in millions of tonnes, not hundreds of millions of tonnes, but BILLIONS of tonnes of coking coal. Time to get real and realise Cumbrian coal is quite irrelevant in world terms. Take the planning committees, MPs and Lords on a trip to see the truth, instead than being oversteered by arm-waving.

  • Chris Burden 13th Feb '21 - 2:12pm

    The built-in assumption here is that life (steel-making and coal production) will go on as usual whether we like it or not and whatever we do. As the imperative is to reduce and STOP burning fossil fuel, this is not good enough.
    If you take the limited, pragmatic view of the author, a reasonable argument has been made but one that simply ignores the imperative. Again, that is not good enough.
    John Studholme: We are not schoolchildren, playing some sort of game, trying to outwit or get one over a teacher but in a desperate struggle to try and save life as it currently exists on the planet.

  • @Chris Burden – If you believe that life as it currently exists is doomed unless we stop all CO2 generating activity then we should all stop breathing right away. Each of us exhales 35,000 to 50,000 ppm of carbon dioxide with every breath.

    Luckily, climate change is vastly exaggerated and is more about politics and generating enormous wealth for the few, so the chance having serious warming is extremely remote.

  • Katharine Pindar 13th Feb '21 - 8:56pm

    What planet are you living on, Peter?!

  • @Katharine, I follow the objective science, not the alarmist stuff preached by activists.

  • @Peter – I follow the objective science, not the alarmist stuff preached by activists.
    From your posts an another LDV article, I get the distinct impression you don’t actually understand either the science you cite nor how or why it has been translated into a simple, but not totally accurate message. Yes reducing Carbon emissions on their own won’t solve climate change, but they get people moving in the right direction and help prevent us having to deal with the human toxicity issues associated with levels of CO2 over 1000ppm.

    “Each of us exhales 35,000 to 50,000 ppm of carbon dioxide with every breath.”
    Following this logic, there is no reason why China (and others) need to worry about the toxic smog that hung over their major cities in recent years. Ie. try living in an atmosphere where the normal level of CO2 is 35,000+ ppm.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Feb '21 - 6:33pm

    I don’t know how many of the contributors here are Liberal Democrats. I hope it is not so many!

  • Tony Greaves 14th Feb '21 - 6:35pm

    If, as reported, 85% of the production of this coal would be for export, it negates the concern about the carbon footprint of importing coal for steel making. It also suggests that most of the arguments in favour, other than the jobs, are bogus.

  • Tony Greaves 14th Feb ’21 – 6:35pm:
    If, as reported, 85% of the production of this coal would be for export, it negates the concern about the carbon footprint of importing coal for steel making.

    As I understand it, those exports are destined for Europe, displacing imports from North America and Australia…

    ‘Carrying coals to Germany: Imports still vital despite sagging demand’:

    In the January-October period of 2019, Germany’s hard coal imports from Russia (including steam and coking coal) made up 45% of all shipments from abroad. Another 19% came from the US, with fellow EU nations combined and Australia sharing third position at 11% each.

  • @Roland – Please chack the facts about the CO2 concentration in exhaled breath. I only mentioned this fact because I knew it would surprise people who have been brainwashed to think that CO2 is some evil, toxic construction of the devil instead of beneficial plant food.

    I ask you to report back with whatever concentration you discover. Please, will you do that?

  • @Peter – And the relevance of CO2 levels in exhaled breathe to atmospheric CO2 levels is what exactly?

  • @ Tony Greaves Reported where, Tony ?

    According to the BBC, “Coal from the mine could support steel-making in the UK and using British coal would save the carbon emitted by shipping it from Australia or North America”.

  • @Roland – No relevance at all, Roland. Exhaled breath quickly dissipates. I presume that you checked it out and discovered that I was absolutely correct.

    People are encouraged to demonise this harmless gas without having a clue about their own relationship with it. My intention was to enlighten.

    My final sentence in my comment to Chris Burden was driven by concern that he may be alarmed by his (and everyone’s) apparent contribution to atmospheric CO2.

  • @Peter – My intention was to enlighten.
    That might have been your intention, however you just illustrated your own lack of understanding of the science.

  • @Roland I would be grateful if you could explainwhat it is that I don’t understand.

  • I think some time we have to live in the real world and remember that we cannot be perfect, but we can do our best.

    I am amazed that some people think that closing our Steel Industry is a vote winner. It will not be. In order to do all the good things we want to do, we first need to get elected. If we don’t get elected then not 1 word of our manifesto will ever be enacted.

    Vote Lib Dem to close the Steel Industry as a political slogan is political suicide. Whilst objecting to this mine seems a sensible position on it’s face, if we want a steel industry then the coal will need to come from somewhere.

    Better to come from the UK than from Russia or China.

    I think this pandemic will leak to a demand for increased self sufficiency in our industries, this will leak to difficult decisions being made.

  • Geoffrey Dron 15th Feb '21 - 10:59am


    LibDems need to be vociferously supporting the levelling up agenda for the north of England. Opposing this project, situated in an area of high unemployment is nonsensical. Sure, if it had been coal for energy, opposition would have been fine even allowing for the employment situation. But in the case of coking coal to support steel production, the balance is in favour of approval.

  • David Evershed 16th Feb '21 - 12:21pm

    Congratulations to John Studholme for an informative and thoughful article.

  • Peter Davies 22nd Feb '21 - 11:58am

    @Ian Sanderson Hydrogen as a replacement for coal is used as a reducing agent not just to generate heat. We will soon be generating more green electricity than we use for most of the summer which makes this process viable. Large steel producers like Nippon Steel are already betting on it.

  • neil James sandison 22nd Feb '21 - 2:26pm

    All fuels have an environmental impact . balancing the impact is where the scientist come in . but politians do have to take some responsibility a mad dash for electric without a viable or sustainable distribution system or high carbon outputs from by power producers makes electric not a clean and green as we think . low carbon fuels by high energy users can be produced by using waste derived fuels but a close eye needs to be kept on emissions in all cases.

  • Donnachadh McCarthy 25th Feb '21 - 1:53pm

    This Lib Dem councillor’s posting is shocking.

    He totally fails to point out, that should the mine go ahead, the UK (as COP26 President) would be therefore saying to all countries at the COP that they should open their own oil, gas and coal fields.

    That way climate catastrophe is guaranteed.

    On the detail, his post re transport emissions is shockingly wrong.
    The extra emissions from importing the coal is about 1 to 2 % as per mines own planning application.

    His downplaying of the extent of the emissions is truly disturbing.

    At about 6 million tons per annum, for the 50 year lifespan that they applied for. the emissions would be about 300million tons. (yes a condition on cutting off in 2050 was applied) – this is almost the equivalent of the UK’s entire economy emissions for an entire year ie 340 million tons!!

    In my opinion, in view of the level of destructiveness proposed by this mine, having any LD Cllr vote for it should disqualify them from being a member of a party committed to climate action, as it would make them guilty of collusion in climate genocide

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