Sir David speaks out against opencast mine bid

Criticism of the proposed Highthorn opencast mine in Northumberland by acclaimed broadcaster and nature expert Sir David Attenborough has been welcomed by the Save Druridge group.

By Andrew Coulson
Thursday, 7th March 2019, 1:00 pm
A section of the proposed Highthorn opencast mine site near Widdrington and Druridge Bay.
A section of the proposed Highthorn opencast mine site near Widdrington and Druridge Bay.

North East-based Banks Mining last year successfully lodged a High Court challenge to the former Secretary of State Sajid Javid’s decision to reject its planning application for a surface mine near Druridge Bay despite a government-appointed inspector recommending that the scheme should go ahead.

After the ruling, the project was returned to the desk of Mr Javid’s successor, James Brokenshire, for further consideration.

Sir David Attenborough has discussed the matter with Save Druridge member Dr David Golding, Associate of the Institute for Sustainability at Newcastle University.

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And a comment that appeared in a national newspaper from the Blue Planet presenter was as follows: ‘It would be shameful were the UK to open this new coal mine at precisely the moment the world at large is recognising the dreadful effect of burning coal on our planet’s climate’.

Lynne Tate, who is part of the Save Druridge campaign group, said: “We were very honoured that Sir David Attenborough took the time out to ring Dr Golding.

“While Banks Mining may be experts in the extraction of coal, they are certainly not experts on environmental pollution.

“A further three former chairmen of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution endorsed Sir David Attenborough’s comment, together with a further seven climate and energy specialists.”

Dr Golding added: “The global climate isn’t impressed by where greenhouse gases come from.

“Every new mine will almost inevitably increase the total amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere.”

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “It is wholly misleading to claim that preventing mining at Highthorn will protect against global climate change when the consequence would actually result in an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the importation of coal needed to supply the UK’s steel and cement manufacturers.

“As a major developer of renewable energy in the UK, we fully support the planned transition to a low carbon economy, but it cannot be in our nation’s or our planet’s best interest to import coal over vast distances when we still have high quality reserves close to our customers in the UK.”

He added: “Imports of coal from Russia have increased by over 730,000 tonnes between the first quarters of 2017 and 2018 to make up for the shortfall in UK production.

“The associated greenhouse gas emissions generated by the transportation alone of these imports are higher than the emissions from both mining and transporting the same tonnage of coal from Highthorn.

“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 Highthorn will deliver and would inevitably result in a global increase in greenhouse gas emissions.”