As part of the process of evaluating the site’s potential as a successful mine, several temporary boreholes will be created to allow samples to be taken and sent for analysis. This is an important step towards establishing the quality of the anticipated metallurgical coal, and one which is critical for the plans to be able to proceed.
There are likely to be four initial boreholes, each in place for no more than three weeks, with the whole ‘Phase 1’ process expected to be completed by December 2014. We have chosen to do it at this time to limit the impact on the tourist season. ‘Phase 2’ will involve the offshore drilling of up to eight further boreholes in the sea off the coast. See ‘What is the timescale?’ for further information about the drilling campaign.
We are aiming to cause as little disruption as we can, and sites have been selected as far away from habitation as is possible yet still allowing access for the workforce. We will use a drill to create the boreholes, and this is expected to be about as loud as a dishwasher and create no significant vibration beyond the perimeter of the site, which will be fenced off for safety and secured at night to prevent damage to people or property. We may also need to use a generator, which typically create the same level of noise as an idling car. Unless there are issues with site safety, it is not anticipated that the sites will be lit at night. We have worked with associations and agencies including the National Trust, RSPB and the Environment Agency as well as the Cumbria County Council Planning Department, Allendale Council and Copeland Council to ensure all parties are kept up to date and have an opportunity to raise concerns or make recommendations. Any landowners who are affected have also been consulted.
To create a borehole, the top surface is removed to a depth of two metres and then the drill is moved to a vertical position so that drilling can commence. As the drilling progresses, the sides of the borehole are lined with a metal liner to prevent it collapsing. Just before where the coal is expected to be found, the drill is changed so that it can capture a sample of the coal in a core, a cylinder of coal which is then brought to the surface for measuring and sent for analysis in the laboratory. Once the borehole has reached a depth beyond the bottom of the coal seam, the drill is removed and a concrete mix is poured into the hole up to about two metres below surface level. The surface material is then replaced and the ground returned to its previous state.
We anticipate completing these initial investigations by December 2014, and will post updates on the news pages to keep everyone informed of progress.