Allan Todd explains why it is critical to keep campaigning against a new coal mine in Cumbria - and how you can get involved.


The first half of June has brought yet more deeply-worrying Climate Crisis news:

  • A deadly drought in the Horn of Africa – which “would not have happened without climate change” – causing nearly a million children in Kenya to suffer from “acute malnutrition” and forcing 3.3m people to leave their homes.
  • The Arctic Ocean now expected to be totally ice-free in summers by as early as the 2030s – even if we make drastic cuts in GHG emissions now!
  • Unprecedented global heating-related wildfires in Canada, currently putting New York & many other parts of the US under dense health-damaging smoke.
  • The UK issuing this summer’s first Heat-Health Alert – yellow for whole swathes of England, and up-graded to amber for London, East & West Midlands, and the East, South East & South West of England, with temperatures hitting 30C. And it’s only June!
  • The Labour Party – despite all the above – announcing that it’s going to “delay” its ‘promise’ to spend £28bn a year on green investment! Now Starmer is ‘pledging’ (he doesn’t have a good record on ‘pledges’!) that Labour’s green spending would rise “up to that amount by 2027.”  Incidentally, that decision coincided with the Labour Lords ABSTAINING on a vote on a Tory amendment to make the new Public Order Bill even more draconian than it already is – just when there is more than ever to protest about! 

Not surprisingly, UN Secretary General António Guterres has just made it absolutely clear how imperative it is to get off fossil fuels – and not to begin any new projects:

“The fossil fuel industry is at the heart of the climate crisis. The problem is not simply fossil fuel emissions. It’s fossil fuels – period. Countries must progressively phase them out, moving to leave oil, coal and gas in the ground – and massively boost renewable investments.”

Yet… West Cumbria Mining (WCM) and the Tories (both national and local) STILL want to go ahead with a new mine in Cumbria! If WCM are telling the truth (they don’t have a good record!), then the coke they say they’ll mine will release 200m tonnes of CO2 over the lifetime of the mine – that’s TWICE the total released every year by the UK’s entire energy sector!!

Not surprisingly, ever since the plan was announced, opposition to the mine has been building. Initially, this mainly took the form of presenting evidence at public inquiries and writing letters to the local press. In particular, once the proposed mine was given government approval in December 2022 – conveniently announced after COP27 had ended! – legal challenges were launched by South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC)  and by Friends of the Earth (FoE). These challenges will now be heard at the High Court in London from 24-26 October.

Speakers’ Corners

However, in addition to those steps, local campaigners have begun building up public awareness of, and opposition to, the coalmine. Most recently, we have begun organising ‘Speakers’ Corners’ at site of the proposed new coalmine, which is located just outside Whitehaven. These events are being co-ordinated by West Cumbria FoE and XR North Lakes, and our first one was on 18 May. The main speakers then were Mike Berners-Lee (Professor of Sustainability at Lancaster University, and author of There Is No Planet B), Tina Rothery (of PNR and Anti-Fracking Nanas’ fame), Anne Harris (Coal Action Network) and Hazel Graham, a local climate jobs campaigner.  Plus we also had the unexpected arrival of Chris Packham, of BBC Springwatch fame) who also spoke. The talks were interspersed with Q & A sessions, which is a format future ‘gatherings’ will take. In addition, the Ecosocialist banner was on display, and ACR leaflets for ‘The Big One’ were handed round:

Fig. 3 – Chris Packham – the secret activist, who turned up at our 18 May event!

Further Speakers’ Corners

So there are obviously many reasons why all those concerned about the ever-worsening Climate and Ecological Crises should make an effort to join us in Whitehaven. Two more Speakers’ Corners are already fixed – so get them into your diaries!

Friday 30 June, at 12 noon – Join us for engaging talks, conversation and music. And who knows what ‘celebrity’ may turn up unexpectedly for this one!

The speakers for this event are:

Felicity Dowling – Principal Speaker for Left Unity, and a founder-member of the Ecosocialist Alliance.

Fiona Heslam – one of the UK’s first UN:CC Learn accredited Climate Change teachers, a member of the campaigning group MP Watch, and a Parish Councillor for Little Clifton.

Iain Bruce – eco-activist, participant in the COP26 Coalition, and a journalist.

There will also be acoustic folk-blues music, provided by talented guitarist Jon Bowie.


Saturday 22 July, at 12 noon – The theme for this event is Just Transition and Green jobs, and is particularly designed with trade unionists in mind. 

Fig. 4 – Come and join us – and bring families & friends!

Speakers for this event will be:

  • Joseph Healy – a member of Unite’s National LGBT+ Committee and of Unite’s London and Eastern Region, one of Left Unity’s Principal Speakers, and a founder member of Green Left.

Other speakers will be confirmed very soon – but we can guarantee interesting and lively talks!


Saturday 9 September, at noon – date and speakers TBC, but this week will mark the 2nd. anniversary since the start of the Public Inquiry into the mine.


Tuesday 24 October, at noon – date and speakers TBC; but this will be taking place during the High Court hearing of the legal challenges.


Please note: there will be no Speakers’ Corner in August.



For the moment, all Speakers’ Corner events will take place outside Whitehaven, on the old Marchon site, on Wilson Pit Road, near the junction with High Road.


For those who are not able to travel by train (Whitehaven Station is the nearest station, though it is quite a walk up to the mine site), but will need to travel by car (PLEASE car-share!!), the easiest way to get there – whatever direction you’re travelling from – is to get onto the A595, as if heading for Whitehaven. Stay on that road until you see a road off [R., if travelling from the north; L., if travelling from the south], signed:

‘St. Bees/Sandwith’ – this is Mirehouse Road.

Travel along this until you meet the B5345: turn L. onto St. Bees Road, and then, almost immediately, take the first R. on to Wilson Pit Road. The coalmine site is on the L., next to West Coast Composting (Wilson Pit Yard).

SatNav: CA28 9QJ

54°31’25.6″N 3°35’35.6″W. Google map pindrop

Please bring banners, placards and your best singing voices.

And do indicate ‘Going’ on the relevant Facebook page(s) if you plan to come along, so we have an idea of numbers. And PLEASE share as widely as possible on your social networks!

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Allan Todd is a member of ACR’s Council and of Left Unity’s National Council, and an ecosocialist/environmental and anti-fascist activist. He is the author of Revolutions 1789-1917, Ecosocialism not Extinction, and Trotsky: The Passionate Revolutionary – and the forthcoming Che Guevara: The Romantic Revolutionary (out 30 May 2024)

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