By Susanna Twidale
LONDON (Reuters) – The British government has refused to allow an open cast coal mine to be built in northeastern England, the minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick said.
Northumberland County Council agreed in 2016 that developer The Banks Group could extract 3 million tonnes of coal by cutting an open cast, or surface mine, near Druridge Bay, Highthorn.
Former minister Sajid Javid rejected the application in 2018 following a public inquiry, but this decision was challenged by in the high court and returned for further consideration.
Jenrick said he found the proposal was not environmentally acceptable.
“The proposed development is not likely to provide national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts,” the government said in a document late on Tuesday.
Environmentalists had criticised the plan, saying the mine would destroy an area of natural beauty and that extracting more coal is at odds with international pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“With the world staring at catastrophic climate change, this is the right decision,” Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said in a statement.
Supporters of the project had said it could bring much-needed jobs to the region, and help to reduce Britain’s reliance on coal imports.
Gavin Styles, executive director of Banks Group’s Banks Mining said it was extremely disappointed by the decision.
“At a time when our region and country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, this decision effectively hands the much-needed and valued jobs of our North East workforce to Russian miners,” he said.
Britain imported around 6.5 million tonnes of coal in 2019, government data showed, with more than a third of this coming from Russia.
Banks previously said the project would create at least 100 full-time jobs and inject 87 million pounds ($112 million) into the local economy.
($1 = 0.7734 pounds)