The view from England: Coal mine approval a seasonal present from UK authorities

Presents have been exchanged in England throughout December since earlier than the constructing of Stonehenge 5,000 years in the past. Again then our Neolithic ancestors had been celebrating the midwinter solstice (Dec. 21) with feasts and choices.  

The events grew to become extra formal following the touchdown of Roman legions in AD43, with their pageant of Saturnalia (Dec. 17-23) and its custom of banquets and the giving of presents. Within the first half of the 4th century, Emperor Constantine amalgamated the Empire’s varied mid-winter festivals right into a celebration of the beginning of Christ (selecting Dec. 25 because it corresponded with the winter solstice within the Roman calendar).  

Christianity on these islands didn’t correctly emerge till after the arrival in 597 of the Pope-sanctioned mission of Saint Augustine (who grew to become the primary archbishop of Canterbury). Certainly, within the Early Center Ages (fifth to eleventh centuries) we held onto our pagan celebrations of the Anglo-Saxon Mōdraniht (Night time of the Moms) and the Germanic Yuletide. The latter was a mid-winter pageant linked with the god Odin, who could have influenced the affiliation with a white-bearded determine and reindeer.  

The primary recorded celebration in England of Christ’s beginning and the title Christmas (Christ’s Mass) was not till 1038. Even then, presents had been nonetheless primarily related to the 4th century gift-giving saint, Nicholas of Myra (Santa Claus is a phonetic derivation of ‘Sinterklaas,’ a Dutch determine based mostly on Saint Nicholas). Christ didn’t change into the main focus of those presents till Martin Luther’s dogmatic directions within the early sixteenth century.  

With such a wealthy historical past, it’s great that the U.Ok. Authorities has given the native mining trade a seasonal present. On Dec. 7, the Secretary of State for Communities, Michael Gove, permitted our first new underground coal mine for 30 years (as predicted in my column this summer time).  

The £160 million Woodhouse mine, close to Whitehaven in Cumbria, will exchange imports of metallurgical coal and can create a lot wanted jobs (500 straight). Critics argue, nonetheless, that the choice to award planning permission till 2049 undermines the U.Ok.’s climate-change credentials.  

The challenge, owned by West Cumbria Mining, was first unveiled in 2014 and permitted (for the third time) by Cumbria County Council two years in the past. Progress was suspended in February 2021, nonetheless, after the federal government’s Local weather Change Committee (CCC) expressed concern, and the then Communities Secretary, Robert Jenrick, ‘known as in’ the planning software for evaluation. The following public inquiry closed in October 2021, with the federal government saying it might make a last planning determination by early July (a promise finally compromised by Boris Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister).  

Jenrick’s substitute, Gove, has confronted a troublesome determination. Coal mining is deeply unpopular, and goes towards the federal government’s personal CO2 commitments. However, boosting uncooked materials safety and lowering the nation’s dependence on Russia is essential, and Cumbria is crying out for expert, long-term, well-paid private-sector jobs.  

Gove claims the coal mine would “to some extent, assist the transition to a low-carbon future.” The CCC chair Lord Deben, nonetheless, has known as the proposal “indefensible,” and warned that the approval will injury the U.Ok.’s management on local weather change, and “create one other instance of Britain saying one factor and doing one other.”  

Though there are at present no working mines on the West Cumberland Coalfield, greater than 70 pits had been sunk in the course of the previous 300 years. The primary reference to coal extraction within the space is to an operation at Arrowthwaite within the thirteenth century. Small-scale, near-surface coal leases had been granted within the sixteenth century, with the Lowther household growing the area’s mines from the mid-Seventeenth to early twentieth centuries. The primary undersea mine in England, Saltom, was sunk in 1729 on the shore close to Whitehaven (this mine closed in 1848 however the winding engine home and mine shaft stay).  

The Whitehaven mines had been infamous for firedamp (coalbed methane), and over 500 individuals died in fuel explosions. Because of this they had been the primary collieries to make use of the locally-invented ‘Metal Mill’ for lighting (a hand-cranked machine utilizing flint), designed by the mining engineer Carlisle Spedding within the mid-18th century. These had been used till the introduction in 1819 of Sir Humphrey Davy’s new security lamp, which he examined within the Whitehaven collieries (as a result of, as he defined, that they had the “severest attainable circumstances”).  

However, firedamp explosions continued to trigger a devastating lack of life within the Whitehaven mines (together with that of Spedding himself in 1755). Accidents within the twentieth century included the demise of 136 miners at Wellington Pit in Could 1910, 79 in three explosions within the Twenties at Haig Pit, and 116 in two explosions at William Pit within the Forties.  

Mark Jenkinson, the Member of Parliament for close by Workington, mentioned the announcement was “improbable information,” and a “nice day for West Cumbria.” He might need added it was a well timed current for U.Ok. mining typically, and {that a} new, safer, mine will probably be a becoming tribute to the lads, ladies and kids who’ve died on this coalfield.  

— Dr. Chris Hinde is a mining engineer and the director of Choose and Pen Ltd., a U.Ok.-based consulting agency. He beforehand labored for S&P World Market Intelligence’s Metals and Mining division. 

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