The UK government is weighing the feasibility of opening a new coal mine to reduce dependence on Russian energy, according to a report by the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, citing sources in the Conservative Party.
According to the sources of the publication, Michael Gove, the UK’s housing and regional development minister, is inclined to approve the construction of a new coal mine in the city of Whitehaven, Cumbria in the northwest of England. The project was originally presented several years back and greenlighted in October 2020, but six months later, the UK Cabinet of Ministers stalled certification and launched a new review of the project amid protests by environmentalists.
However, against the backdrop of the situation in Ukraine and the sweeping restrictions placed on Moscow, which include scrapping Russian coal imports by the end of the year, the UK authorities could end up approving the project despite previous objections, The Telegraph writes. Gove is expected to reach a decision on the new mine by July 7, but sources say this could happen as early as mid-May. According to the Cabinet, the mine will provide coal for key steel mills.
If approved, the Whitehaven project will be the first new coal mine in Britain in three decades. The project will focus on extracting metallurgical coal (met coal), which is used in the production of steel. Until recently, 40% of the UK’s met coal needs were covered by Russia.
However, contracts were scrapped amid the sanctions that followed the launch of Russia’s military operation in neighboring Ukraine. On April 6, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss announced that by the end of 2022, London will stop all coal and oil imports from Russia and take measures to stop Russian gas deliveries as well.
The EU, which is also pressuring Moscow with economic restrictions amid the Ukraine crisis, has already decided to abandon Russian coal. Earlier this month, Brussels said it would ban the purchase, import, or transit of coal and other solid minerals from Russia starting on August 10.
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