3 March, 2020
Earlier this month the British Government launched its hugely ambitious plans for the ‘COP 26’ UN climate conference which it will host in November. This will be a major event and could lead to a new global agreement to speed up carbon emission reductions. The path to significantly reducing global emissions can only be achieved if new low carbon technologies are built and deployed around the world. This will require the mass manufacture and roll out of renewable technologies as well as other low carbon power generation on a scale never before witnessed.
At the beginning of March, the UK government overturned a policy made under Prime Minister David Cameron that effectively ended the chance for new onshore wind farms. With the policy change announced on 2nd March 2020, onshore wind projects will now be able to compete for government subsidies alongside other renewable technologies.
To achieve green infrastructure ambitions in the timescales required to meet emissions reductions goals, the world will require high grade steel. Steel is the primary material used in wind turbine manufacture (there is currently no alternative to steel). Steel is made from a number of ingredients, including metallurgical coal, which is heated in an oven to produce coke. Coke is fed into a blast furnace with iron ore and limestone to produce molten iron. This iron is then used to produce steel in an oxygen furnace. Our project in Cumbria is specifically for metallurgical coal. Consequently, WCM will be part of the European steel industry supply chain and therefore part of the future global low carbon transition. Importantly the Prime Minister has given the responsibility for managing and delivering the COP 26 summit to business and industry ministers.
Without steel there can be no wind farms, solar farms, tidal barrages or the reconfiguration of electricity grids which are necessary for low carbon electricity to be taken up. We might, one day, be able to make all the steel needed without coal, but the technology to do this economically everywhere is still generations away. The blast furnace process will still constitute at least 60% of all steel production over the next 30 years.
Britain’s last coal fired power station will be gone within four years. That energy industry is now part of Britain’s history and its gradual closure has allowed the UK to cut its carbon emissions by 42% since 1992 – this is one of the most significant carbon reduction programmes of any major industrialised state. Clearly the coal used in these power stations will no longer have a role in Britain’s energy industry.
In contrast the coal from West Cumbria will supply British and European steelmakers and create hundreds of new skilled jobs in the county and Northern England. This is just part of the reasoning why the project has received unanimous planning approval from the County Council and clear support from the Government. There is also the important point that our coal will not carry the very large carbon footprint of imported coal. Today the UK imports coal for its steel industry from as far afield as Russia, the USA and Australia. This represents tens of thousands of miles of transport emissions by train and ship. WCM will be able to substitute for such imports and end this hidden pollution.
WCM looks forward to further explaining its plans and its ambitions with members of the Government and all of those who wish to know more. The low carbon future will have steel at its heart and WCM will be a part of this hugely exciting and transformative process.
WCM will further enhance its sustainability targets through major CO2 offsetting which will ensure all of the mine operations are net carbon neutral, as well as a significant proportion of the end product emissions too. This would result in WCM being a world leader in environmental mitigation for steel making coal production.
WCM is continuing to engage with local stakeholders and is progressing the development of an exciting CSR strategy with the community and the environment at its core.
Great coal, great steel, green and Great Britain.