MINING: Is more coal really needed?

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Does the UK really need coal to be extracted from an opencast mine at Druridge Bay?

Scotland’s last coal-fired power station, Longannet in Fife, announced this week that it is to close on March 31 next year as it is not economically viable.

This is the second UK coal-fired power station closure to be announced in four months, with Ferrybridge C announcing its closure in May, also scheduled for March 2016. That will reduce the number of UK coal-fired power stations from 12 to 10.

By 2023, six of the remaining 10 coal-fired stations will have to close due to legislation unless they install emission abatement measures or the legislation is changed. These stations, built in the late 1960s and earlier 1970s, are circa 45 years old and are coming to the end of their design life.

Investing in expensive emissions abatement kit for old plants looks unlikely unless the Government offers grants to help fund it.

This seems improbable given the Government’s current policy on coal-fired power generation.

Current indications are that the coal power generation companies are bringing forward their planned closure dates.

The Government’s environmental taxation on these high-polluting power stations is cited as a significant factor in this decision-making process.

The current economic and political pressures make this trend for early closure look likely to continue.

The Banks Group has stated that it wants to mine the coal at Druridge for power generation purposes.

With the current rate of power station closure, the market for coal is fast declining, as are the potential revenues from coal extraction due to the world slump in coal prices.

Based on the current coal prices (which are not forecast to increase in the next few years), a review of the Banks accounts and the proposed extraction tonnages indicates that profitability of the potential Druridge Bay mine is highly questionable.

Even if we put aside the strong arguments associated with the impact an opencast mine would have on wildlife and tourism in the Druridge Bay area and the environmental damage which would be caused during coal extraction and burning, the demand for coal from power stations looks set to reduce.

And, by the time coal extraction could start at Druridge (2018), the market for volume coal looks like it will have significantly diminished, as do the potential revenues for the Banks group.

Extraction of coal from Druridge Bay makes no environmental or economic sense.

It is understood that Banks intends to submit a planning application for the proposed opencast mine in the near future.

I would urge people to object to any planning application submitted by Banks.

Dave Patchett,

By email