March 1, 2019 - In England, a bid to dig an opencast coal mine on the outskirts of Newcastle could prove a "climate catastrophe", environmental campaigners say.
Banks Mining, the company behind the controversial mine bid near Druridge Bay in Northumberland are moving forward with another coal-extraction scheme near Throckley.
A planning application for the Dewley Hill surface mine, which would be located on agricultural land to the north of the A69's Throckley junction and to the east of the B6326 Ponteland Road, is expected to be submitted to Newcastle City Council in the coming weeks.
The scheme, which would be run in partnership between Durham-based Banks Mining and Ibstock Brick, would run for three-and-a-half years and see 80,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay extracted from the site.
The project was initially introduced in 2016, and this week Banks presented plans to Throckley locals, arguing the scheme would support 50 jobs, and reduce the UK's reliance on coal from overseas, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emmisions.
But local environmental group Save Newcastle Wildlife argues coal extraction should be stopped for good in order to combat climate change.
And, it claims the local impact of mining could mean "decimating" wildlife habitats, blight locals with noise and dust and increase flooding and contamination risks.
A petition started by the group in 2016 opposing the plan has gained more than 1,400 signatures.
Save Newcastle Wildlife spokesperson Rachel Locke said: "This is a locally and nationally significant issue, which will result in harm to wildlife and green belt and bring us hurtling ever closer towards climate catastrophe."
Meanwhile, the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE) has pledged to "completely oppose" the scheme.
Richard Cowen, chair of CPRE North East, said: "We have heard Banks’ arguments before about the national economic interest and that they are doing all this to supply domestic consumption.
"But by their own admission, Banks has been exporting coal to Spain, so that argument doesn’t fully stand up - and nor do others they make.
"They may make this sound like a simple, surgical process but it necessarily brings disruption, noise, dust, nuisance and a huge amount of traffic.
"All this at a time when a younger generation across the UK are acutely aware of the dangers of pollution and environmental damage and are firmly against it.
"The public mood in the country is undeniably moving away from pollution and fossil fuels and in favor of renewables and simply to look to open one opencast mine after another because coal can be so easily tapped and sold for big profits can no longer be justified.
"We do not believe proposals to opencast mine in Throckley can be justified and for that reason, we will completely oppose it."
Banks said dust and noise will be controlled, while wildlife protections will be put in place.
Jeannie Kielty, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said: "The UK continues to require coal to meet a range of essential industrial, commercial and household needs, and it is undoubtedly in the national interest to continue to invest in skilled mining jobs in North East England instead of increasing our already substantial reliance on coal imports from overseas locations such as the US, Colombia and most especially Russia.
"Imports of coal from Russia increased by over 730,000 tonnes between the first quarters of 2017 and 2018 to make up for the shortfall in UK production, which is almost as much as would be produced at Dewley Hill in total, yet the per tonne carbon dioxide emissions generated by the transportation of these imports alone are many times higher than the equivalent figure for transporting coal mined at home.
"Increasing imports of coal simply ‘off-shores’ our environmental responsibilities without the significant local economic and employment opportunities and environmental enhancements that Banks Mining projects like Dewley Hill will deliver and would inevitably result in a global increase in greenhouse gas emissions."
The Banks Group is currently awaiting the outcome of their reviewed bid to construct an opencast mine at Druridge Bay after the High Court ruled the Secretary of State had been wrong to rescind their planning permission on environmental grounds.
Meanwhile, at the Pont Valley, near Consett, County Durham, work is ongoing to remove 500,000 tonnes of coal, despite an ongoing row with campaigners opposed to coal use and extraction.