Claims that a new coal mine in Cumbria will help the British steel industry and replace coking coal imports from Russia are untrue, Chris Macdonald, chief executive of the Material Processing Institute, which serves as the UK's national center for research, told the Observer. steel.
McDonald's remarks come amid a forthcoming decision by the UK government to launch the country's first and only coal mine in 30 years.
Proponents of the proposed mine suggested that at least some of the coal produced would be used for domestic steel production. They also say it could reduce dependence on Russian coking coal after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
However, influential figures in the UK steel industry are speaking of disappointment with the Cumbria project, saying they are unlikely to buy coal for their plants at the new mine.
“There is disappointment when other industries speak for the steel industry when the steel industry itself has not stated that it needs this mine. I would say that there is no demand for it. The justification for the mine was based on the need for UK-produced coking coal for the UK steel industry. This is the case that the coal industry is doing. But this does not meet the needs of the steel industry. There are only two potential buyers of this coal in the UK: Tata Steel and British Steel. British Steel said it could not use coal from the mine due to its high sulfur content. Tata Steel has stated that if coal is available, they may or may not use a small amount of coal. There is no one in the steel industry who would like to place orders in a new mine,” McDonald said.
Wodehouse Coal Mine was initially approved by councilors in 2020. However, ministers intervened and launched an investigation due to opposition to the project, which escalated ahead of the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow last year. Michael Gove must decide whether to approve the mine by July. According to recent reports, he intends to do so, although his office says a decision has not yet been made.
West Cumbria Mining (WCM) said it will create 530 permanent jobs, 80% of which will be provided to local residents.
McDonald, who is also chairman of the UK Metals Council, cast doubt on claims that the mine would reduce dependence on Russian energy imports.
I think it's important to be clear that even if this mine opens tomorrow, it won't displace a single ton of Russian coking coal from the UK - and I can say that with confidence. Tata Steel no longer uses Russian coking coal. British Steel said it could not use coal from Cumbria. If the mine gets a permit tomorrow, I think it won't open until 2026 or so. So it is unlikely that the project will have a very long life in this regard. From my point of view, as someone who has worked in the steel industry for 20 years and is very involved in the technology of future steel production, there is no demand for the mine in the steel industry,” he said.