5 November, 2014
Through the Whitehaven News, a contributor raised a question regarding West Cumbria Mining’s (WCM) intentions while investigating the coal seams beneath West Cumbria.
WCM wishes to make it absolutely clear that we have no interest in underground coal gasification (UCG) at all. It is not a technique in which we have any technical capability or experience as a company and it is not part of any of our future plans.
Our plan, as outlined on this website, in our public meetings and through our communications with the media, is to construct a new underground coal mine, using modern conventional mining techniques; this would involve cutting the coal underground using large mechanical coal cutting machines and bringing the coal to the surface via conveyors within tunnels.
This is not a remote operation, or one which would cause any dangerous emissions, gases, underground burning of coal in situ etc. Modern mining techniques allow the mine to operate safely and efficiently. That combined with the highest level of environmental protection and safety standard would mean that this would be a world class metallurgical coal mine; something which we believe West Cumbria could be very proud of.
West Cumbria Mining has carried out extensive studies and reviews of historical data over the last few years, which included collecting a lot of historical data from the work that the National Coal Board carried out. We have records for more than 30 onshore boreholes within our licence area, drilled since the late 1800s, as well as a lot of coal sampling data from within Haig Colliery workings and extensive geophysical surveys carried out by the NCB and nuclear industry.
Despite all of this historical data, what we do not have is up-to-date coal quality information, thus the latest programme of borehole drilling. We are drilling into the coal deposits to recover physical coal samples for laboratory testing.
The reason why understanding coal quality is so important in any new metallurgical coal mine project is that it directly influences the saleability of the coal; we need to be able to prove that the coal meets the requirements of the modern steel plant. Many of these tests were not available or carried out on the samples recovered historically, and therefore it is not possible for us to easily compare the historical data to modern standards and requirements.
The coal extracted from the investigation sites will be crushed, screened, floated and then tested to mimic modern coal processing techniques; some of the testing data to determine quality includes moisture, ash content, volatile matter, sulphur, chemical composition (C, H, N, O S, Ash), calorific value, vitrinite reflectance and CSN, CSR & fluidity values (to mimic behaviour in steel production).
The next stage of our work, after the four onshore boreholes, will be a series of offshore boreholes in 2015, again to assess quality but also to help build our knowledge of the coal deposit, structural geology and, very importantly, the proven size of the coal resource.
We hope this helps provide reassurance that we have no intention or interest in pursuing any aspects of underground coal gasification.