West Cumbria Mining (WCM), having submitted its mine planning application to Cumbria County Council earlier this year, is now hoping a decision from planners will be forthcoming in spring 2018, according to local newspaper, Times & Star. If the £165 million mine application is successful, initial construction work would now start in winter 2018 and be completed by autumn 2020, with full mine production by 2023. The processing plant would be on the former Marchon site at Kells.
Earlier this month WCM announced that it had successfully completed, working together with its specialist contractor Hargreaves, the initial re-entry and inspection of the abandoned Sandwith Anhydrite Mine drift tunnels. This is another key milestone for WCM in the development of its plans to construct a new 21st century underground metallurgical coal mine, located off the coast near St Bees and to be called Woodhouse Colliery, which would supply the UK and European steel making market.
In September/October 2017 the mining team successfully gained entry into the tunnels by removing the concrete walls and backfilled stoppings at the entrances to both tunnels, and then carried out detailed inspections of the condition of the upper sections. The conditions within the tunnels was as anticipated by the engineers, with clear signs of deterioration and failure of the tunnel linings from 135 m in the south drift and 230 m in the north drift.
Commenting, Mark Kirkbride, CEO of WCM said in early November: “I’m very pleased that we have safely and successfully inspected the upper sections of both tunnels; the conditions further down the drifts have, as we expected, deteriorated since they were abandoned more than 30 years ago, and this work has been essential to confirm the extent of the work needed to be undertaken to repair and remediate these drift tunnels for our planned new mine.”
The team have now secured the drifts with new steel gates and the site remains protected by 24-hour security.