How to campaign against the Cumbrian coal mine

Demand that Michael Gove puts a stop to the proposed Whitehaven coal mine. Use this guide to find out how your group can get involved in our action during the week of 7 March.

28 Feb 2022

During the week of 7 March Friends of the Earth is coordinating a series of local actions against the proposed coal mine near Whitehaven in Cumbria, as we wait for a decision from Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, following the public inquiry. 

We are expecting Michael Gove to make his decision on the coal mine in the next couple of months.

We would like to remind the government that the UK still holds the COP26 presidency, and this decision will reflect on how committed we are to acting on the climate crisis.  

About Whitehaven coal mine

Why do we want the mine stopped?

  • The coal produced will increase global carbon emissions at a time when scientists have just delivered the starkest warning yet about the climate crisis.  
  • The steel industry is already taking steps to decarbonise and is moving away from coal. 
  • There are better ways to provide the jobs that are needed in West Cumbria. 

What is local opinion about the coal mine?

West Cumbria Mining (WCM) do have some local support because they have promised 500 jobs for local people, but we believe these are empty promises, as there is no guarantee they will go to local people.

Instead, WCM has only pledged that “where possible” 80% of the jobs will go to people from within 20 miles of the mine. Cumbria has a great potential for green jobs; a recent report by Cumbria Action for Sustainability calculated that with the proper investment 9000 jobs could be created around the county, including 4,500 in West Cumbria.

We think that the government should refuse this coal mine planning permission and instead deliver for the people of Cumbria by investing in green jobs.   

Don’t we need coal to make high quality steel?

The Climate Change Committee has confirmed that the UK steel-making industry could stop using coal by as early as 2035. That’s only halfway through the mine’s projected timeline. The mining company has previously said it plans to sell 360,000 tonnes (13%) a year to British Steel in Scunthorpe and Tata Steel in Port Talbot, but British Steel has said the sulphur content of WCM coal may be too high for it to use. 

The EU, a key export market, is moving away from using coal for steel even more quickly. Several pilots for hydrogen-produced steel are already up and running.  

At the beginning of the public inquiry, it appeared that most of WCM’s coal (85-90%) would go to the EU and some Baltic States, but because of the EU targets to transition to green steel by 2035, WCM’s later submissions stated that the coal would be exported to countries located further afield. This includes those outside the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme and where steel making plants will not require Carbon Capture and Storage, such as Turkey.

Why is this important, and what can our groups do?

The UK still holds the COP26 presidency and if Michael Gove decides to refuse this coal mine planning permission it will send a clear message to the rest of the world that we are willing to walk our talk and take steps to reduce our own CO2 emissions. It is vital that we pressure our MPs to speak out against the mine in Parliament and make representations directly to Michael Gove, asking him to stop this coal mine. 

By holding an action outside your MP’s office during the week commencing 7 March, you can join the groundswell of protest against the Whitehaven coal mine and help send a strong message that the UK government must stop fossil fuel projects in the UK. 

The action plan

If you can go to your MP's office

You will gather outside your MP’s office, ideally on Friday 11 March, at 12 pm, or whenever you can that day or during the week commencing 7 March. 

Hand in your letter to your representative and hold a photo action (printed posters will be available for making placards, or why not make your own prop). 

If you can’t get to your MP’s office in person

Take a photo of yourself or your group holding signs saying, "No New Coal Mine in Cumbria". You can post your photos online using the hashtag #NoNewCoal (get more social media guidelines in the toolkit below). Be as creative as you can with your signs and photo! And don’t forget to email or post a letter to your MP too.  

Here are some examples of what your photo action might look like: 

Climate Action Berwick and Borders. Photo by Paul Penman.

West Cumbria and North Lakes Friends of the Earth.

Action resources

Here are some useful resources to help you get the most out of your action: 

Quotes from local residents and campaigners

9 year old Emily from Cumbria: Have you ever noticed that it is usually children that understand how bad climate change actually is? I’m really worried about it and lots of other children are too and when I hear that adults are thinking of building a new coal mine it really scares me.

Whitehaven resident Melanie Greggain: One question I do get asked often when I'm expressing my views on the mine is if I'm from Cumbria or not, which I am as are my family, but to me that is not important, I very much welcome others from outside the area who oppose the mine. People sometimes get angry by non-locals opposing the mine, but this is not just a local issue, it’s not just going to cause local environment damage it is a worldwide issue and climate change is a global issue and we do not wanting to be adding to it.

Whitehaven resident Martin Kendall: I don't want my home in Pow Beck Valley being blighted with ugly coal wagons shunted into railway sidings, and no amount of tree planting is going to reduce their impact on this beautiful place in the countryside.

Training and support

If you are on Slack you can join the #nonewcoal channel.  

Or if you have any questions about the action get in touch at [email protected]  

Social media template posts

For groups that will go to their MP's office

Post 1  

Plans for a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria are still on the table. This is our last chance to act.  

Today we asked @XY MP [your local MP] to tell @MichaelGove: the right decision is to stop this mine and urgently invest in green jobs.  

#NoNewCoal  

Post 2 

There is no place for a new coal mine during a climate crisis – but plans for a coal mine in Cumbria could still go ahead.  

We are calling on @TagYourMP to tell @MichaelGove, make the right decision and stop this mine. 

#NoNewCoal #TakeClimateAction 

Photo ideas: 

  • If you can, get your MP to pose with the group and hold the letter 
  • Otherwise, stand outside their office and take a group shot  
  • Make sure you have the No new coal placards and any other FOE banners or flags 
  • Props: if you have time and the ability, you can get creative and make your own props e.g. oversized coal lumps with "No New Coal" written on them (this could be paper mâché or any other material). If you have any Earth Head masks from the COP26 mobilisation, you can also use this.  

For groups that can't go to their MP’s office but still want to show solidarity

Post 1 

Plans for a new coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria are still on the table. This is our last chance to act.  

@XY MP - as our local MP, will you ask @MichaelGove to do the right thing and stop this mine? 

Post 2  

There is no place for a new coal mine during a climate crisis – but plans for a coal mine in Cumbria could still go ahead.  

@TagYourMP, will you act and tell @MichaelGove to make the right decision and stop this mine? 

#NoNewCoal #TakeClimateAction 

Photo ideas 

  • Group shot/selfie with Whitehaven placards in background 
  • Organise a Zoom call with your group and ask everyone to hold up a home-made A3 sign that say: #NoNewCoal or Stop the Whitehaven coal mine 
Birmingham Friends of the Earth take action climate-wrecking gas project in Mozambique

If you don’t have a social media account: 

  1. It would be a good idea to set one up – see our beginners' guide to social media 
  2. Send us your photos via email to [email protected]   
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