UK coal mine decision hangs in the balance
A decision on the UK's first deep coal mine in 30 years hangs in the balance as the government tries to reconcile environmental considerations with economic benefits.
On the day the UK Government will announce renewed commitment to wind power (see Renewable Energy), the Cumbrian Metallurgical Coal project looks at odds with the nation's commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Opponents say it would produce 8 milllion tonnes of carbon annually, though supporters point to the project's capability to provide 500 new jobs.
Cumbria County Council has reportedly "resolved to grant planning approval to West Cumbria Mining to develop the Cumbrian Metallurgical Coal Project" - the third time it has sought to rubber stamp the £165m Woodhouse Colliery scheme, which will contain a new underground mine located on a brownfield site near Whitehaven.
Metallurgical coal has been listed as one of 27 critical raw ingredients by the European Union. Once construction of the mine is completed and Woodhouse Colliery moves into the operational phase, the company says it plans to extract and process around 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year. It is also focusing on supplying the UK and European steel-making plants, which currently imports around 60 million tonnes per annum from USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.
“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment, at a critical time given the impacts of Covid-19 upon employment and economics both locally and nationally," said Mark Kirkbride, CEO of West Cumbria Mining.
“I am proud to be part of a scheme which will have such a positive impact on the local community as well as the long-term financial benefits the mine will bring to Cumbria and the UK."
The process of developing the mine includes careful thought and consideration towards the design of the surface infrastructure, to minimise the potential impact from noise, dust, and light.
An extensive programme of environmental and ecological surveys has been completed, alongside a programme of exploration, both onshore and offshore, which has proven the presence of high-quality coal for use in the steel industry.
“We remain confident that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, will also be able to quickly conclude, as he did so previously, that nothing has changed such that the holding direction can be removed and the final planning permit be issued,” added Kirkbride.
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.