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To: Planning Inspector, Mr Stephen Normington

Coal Produces More Earthquakes than Fracking, So Lets Talk About Sellafield and the Mine

Coal Produces More Earthquakes than Fracking, So Lets Talk About Sellafield and the Mine

We the undersigned are truly appalled that “expected subsidence” and induced earthquakes, are not issues on which the Secretary of State "wishes to be informed" through the Planning Inquiry into the Cumbrian Coal Mine. This is despite the planned Coal Mine being just five miles from Sellafield, the world's riskiest nuclear waste site. In stark contrast the Fracking Planning Inquiries, led by concerns of NGOs, majored on induced seismicity. Coal mining induced earthquakes are quantifiably far greater than that of fracking: "coal mining related events could have accounted for at least ~33% of all detected onshore UK seismic events in 1985" (Anthropogenic earthquakes in the UK: A national baseline prior to shale exploitation 2014). As coal mining has decreased so have anthropological earthquakes including in Cumbria. We urge the Planning Inspector to focus on seismicity and "expected subsidence" at the Inquiry and to put this issue squarely in front of the Secretary of State - the viability of Cumbria and neighbouring countries is at certain risk. A danger more visceral and immediate than climate change impacts is the safety of Sellafield and its decades of nuclear wastes.

Why is this important?

This deep coal mine is unlike any other coal mine. It is just five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site. We urge the Planning Inspector to put earthquake risk and expected subsidence clearly front and centre. It is no accident that it was nuclear safety campaigners, Radiation Free Lakeland who first alerted the nonchalant world in 2017 to the dangers posed by this coal mine.

In addition to induced earthquake risks the mine would be directly below Sellafield’s decades of nuclear waste which have been discharged down pipelines into the Irish Sea and are now largely (but not completely) held in the Cumbrian Mud Patch. Adding vicious insult to injury the CEO of the coal mine, Mark Kirkbride, has been appointed to “Deliver” a deep nuclear dump for the UK government and has already provided preliminary costings of £1.7 Billion just to dig the hole.

Exploratory boreholes (allowed by County Council under “Permitted Development”) for the coal mine extend to 1000 metres, well below the known coal deposits, through geological faults. The ‘exploratory boreholes’ have already accidentally hit a methane gas pocket in the Irish Sea near Sellafield.

It is accepted that coal mining is far worse than fracking for causing earthquakes and man-made earthquakes in former coal mining regions including Cumbria have substantially declined since the stopping of deep coal mining.

The developers West Cumbria Mining have applied for new licence applications. The public and we presume the Planning Inspector are being denied sight of the new plans. We wonder how the planning inquiry can be at all valid without sight of these new licence applications?

We are also confused about the rationale for the Inquiry given that the Planning Inspector is looking into a decision by Cumbria County Council, a decision that has since been effectively withdrawn i.e. the Council are not defending their approval of the coal mine and have effectively withdrawn approval.

Please ensure that earthquake risk is put front and centre of this planning inquiry. Coal mining is far worse than fracking for induced seismicity and Sellafield is just five miles away. To not put earthquake and subsidence front and centre would be to allow the Secretary of State to turn a blind eye to arguably the most damning and dangerous aspects of this coal mine.

The environmental impacts of disturbing the radioactive settlement in the Cumbrian Mud Patch by the "expected subsidence" (West Cumbria Mining) cannot be understated. Who would take the responsibility of cleaning-up the Irish Sea the beaches and 10 miles inland in the worst case scenario which would see the resuspension of several decades of radioactive wastes.
Who would take responsibility for induced seismicity resulting from this new coal mine?
West Cumbria Mining? The County Council? Sellafield?
Induced seismicity could include:
*liquefaction of the Sellafield site
*widening of undetected cracks in the Magnox Swarf Silos on the Sellafield site "Current leak rates are circa 1.5 – 2.5 m3/d. It is desirable to reduce these as much as possible. At present, it is not possible to determine with certainty the precise location of the leak, or indeed the silo or silos (of the 6) that is leaking."
* loss of coolant for high level wastes could impact the whole of Europe.
*localised flooding exacerbating corrosion of existing and planned nuclear storage sites at Drigg and the Port of Workington.

Anthropomorphic Earthquakes in the UK

Sellafield's Magnox Swarf Silos' Leaking

Sellafield Radioactive Discharge on the Irish Sea Bed directly beneath the coal mine plan and question of 'Who is Responsible for Safety of the Discharged Nuclear Wastes?' is subject to complaint being dealt with by the Information Commissioner

Coal Authority Licences

6th Climate Budget note the Climate Change Committee is appointed by BEIS who have also appointed the Coal Boss, Mark Kirkbride to advise Government (CoRWM) on the 'Delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility" (or more than one).

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in West Cumbria

Who is Responsible for Radioactive Waste on the Irish Sea Bed – Call from Nuclear Free Local Authorities

How it will be delivered

At the Planning Inquiry - by email

Cumbria, UK

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


Reasons for signing

  • "Coal needs to be consigned to history to limit global warming, says PM Boris Johnson"


2021-10-18 11:04:15 +0100

Thanks to everyone who has signed the petition which was delivered to the Planning Inspector - along with a plea to include a Traffic LIght System in the Conditions to be placed on this coal mine should the Secretary of State, Michael Gove be inclined to rubber stamp the plan. We will keep the petition open as this issue of seismicity has been smothered in amongst all the climate glamour - the lack of reporting and attention by all concerned on this issue has been scandalous

2021-09-17 10:00:25 +0100

This was written in 2017 with the focus on proximity to Sellafield and induced seismicity - issues that have been buried under the climate glamour...the two over 5 ML earthquakes in the Irish Sea are linked to mining. The one off Whitehaven followed the opening of the first undersea mine in Engand at Saltom Bay – the one nearer the Duddon Estuary was at the peak of the undersea hematite Hodbarrow mine. History is telling us something. The Secretary of State does not want to be informed of these facts through the narrowly focussed Planning Inquiry..strange that!

2021-09-15 08:52:31 +0100

Please do write to Cumbria County Council and copy to the Planning Inspectorate asking that a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking is placed on the coal mine as part of the s106 conditions (conditions placed on developments).
Email Cumbria County Council: [email protected]
copy to the Planning Inspectorate: [email protected]
more info here:

2021-09-07 09:22:06 +0100

Today is the first day of the Planning Inquiry - the petition will be handed in when I have a chance to speak (maybe tomorrow). This coal mine WOULD INDUCE SEISMICITY and is on the same fault line as the riskiest nuclear waste site in the world just five miles away

2021-09-04 14:51:08 +0100

What could go wrong?

2021-09-02 07:49:27 +0100

At the 2019 Conference on Earthquake Risk and Engineering Towards a Resilient World. The authors of the paper INDUCED SEISMICITY IN THE UK IS COMMONPLACE! warn that "Mining induced seismicity is likely to occur at the new Cumbria, deep coal mine, to be opened in 2019/2020 with coal cutting planned for 2021." (our legal challenge with Leigh Day stopped this!) and also "No mining induced events have been reported by BGS since the last mine closed at Kellingley, Yorkshire, on 20 December 2015, except for one in Mansfield, Notts. in June 2016. However, the first new, deep-level coal mine in the UK, for 30 years, has planning permission from Cumbria County Council - induced seismicity is likely."

2021-08-31 21:05:04 +0100

100 signatures reached

2021-08-31 16:08:01 +0100

Giant Postcard from Cumbria featuring amazing artworks has been sent to the coal mine planning inspector ..

2021-08-30 12:50:29 +0100

This New Scientist article from 1997 explains how radioactive wastes from Sellafield travel the oceans even to the Arctic. There are 70 years worth of radioactive wastes just waiting to be disturbed on the seabed and the coal mine's expected subsidence and likely earthquakes would be the catalyst. To narrow the focus of opposition to the coal mine to climate/steel/jobs is doing the planet no favours (but doing the newly "clean, green" nuclear industry a big favour ) -

2021-08-29 09:57:20 +0100

50 signatures reached

2021-08-29 09:16:34 +0100

This article from Dec 2019 was the first to expose the induced earthquake and subsidence risks so close to Sellafield -- there followed a silence on Sellafield's close proximity to the planned coal mine which continues today

2021-08-28 21:26:09 +0100

25 signatures reached

2021-08-28 21:02:06 +0100

"In the 1980s and 1990s mining events accounted for approximately 25% of all the earthquakes recorded in the UK (Browitt et al, 1985). Since the rapid decline of mining activity in the UK there has been a general decrease in the number of these events, however, events may still occur in these areas years after all mining activity has ceased." British Geological Survey

2021-08-28 19:37:22 +0100

10 signatures reached