A public inquiry into plans for a new off-shore coal mine in Cumbria starts today.
West Cumbria Mining wants to create the £160 million mine off the coast of Whitehaven for coking coal.
Despite being given permission by Cumbria County Council three times, the planning application was eventually called in by the Government for scrutiny in light of concerns over climate change and its promises for action.
The Planning Inspectorate will hear from Cumbria County Council, West Cumbria Mining, supporters including Copeland MP Trudy Harrison, Workington MP Mark Jenkinson and borough mayor Mike Starkie and objectors including Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change.
The mine could create hundreds of jobs.
Supporters of the mine argue that extracting coking coal in West Cumbria will reduce the UK’s reliance on imported coal, cutting carbon emissions.
But campaigners say the 2.7 million tonnes of coking coal that would be extracted each year from beneath the Irish Sea will greatly exceed the projected domestic demand for the resource, with just 360,000 tonnes – about 15 per cent of the total – expected to be supplied to UK-based firms.
Mark Kirkbride, chief executive of West Cumbria Mining, has previously said the firm had fully considered the climate impacts of the project and had “implemented significant and world leading techniques to demonstrate that the resources industry can also achieve net carbon zero operations.
He added: “I believe this will become a core part of the social licence to operate resource projects.”
Ruth Balogh, of West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, said: “Cumbria deserves far better than a new coal mine that will damage our local environment and further wreck the climate.
“The region needs more jobs, but these could and should be for industries that build a better future.
“Proper investment in West Cumbria could create thousands of new jobs in areas such as renewable energy, waste management and retrofitting buildings to make them more energy efficient.
“It’s time to leave coal, gas and oil in the ground where they belong.”
It is understood the inquiry will last around four weeks.
The inquiry, which starts at 10am, will take place remotely due to COVID-19 and can be watched below.