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Newcastle City Council will be meeting this Friday to determine a conclusion on a new planning application for the Dewley Hill surface coal mine.
The mine could produce up to 800,000 tonnes of north-east coal.
Approval for the mine would bring hope to the heritage steam operators in Britain, who are currently dependant on the availability of home-produced coal, with supplies now dwindling.
The application has been made by Banks Mining and Ibstock Brick and would see the mine produce 400,000 tonnes of fireclay alongside the coal.
‘We’re calling on member railways, and individual heritage railway supporters, to make their support known to Newcastle City council,’ said HRA Chief Exec Steve Oates. ‘The mine will help meet the UK’s ongoing need for coal to produce steel and cement. And a little more than just 3% of that output, 26,000 tonnes, will keep heritage rail in steam for a year.’
Supports of coal mining in the UK have already pointed out it is greener than importing it from countries thousands of miles away.
Without coal produced in the UK, the steel and cement industries would need to import 5 million tonnes of coal each year. However, railways in the UK don’t need the lump coal, steam operators would need to source and ship their own coal from Russia, the USA or Australia.
‘Bringing coal from Russia will generate five to six times more CO2 than transporting it from a mine like Dewley Hill,’ says Oates. ‘That’s a high environmental cost, but also a high money cost. And that cost is a significant threat to heritage rail.’
Oates also notes that importing coal is more complicated than simply negotiating a contract. He said, ‘There’s a need for somewhere to offload and store the coal, a need for a marketing network, a distribution organisation and financial management. That needs real estate, knowledge, experience and manpower, which all adds to cost.’
‘That’s why we’re encouraging our members to make their support for the Dewley Hill mine known to Newcastle City Council. With no other plans for new UK mines in sight, this may be heritage rail’s last, and perhaps most important, shout for UK coal,’ said Oates.
This article first appeared on www.railadvent.co.uk
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