Thousands of years of English coalmining will near an end before the week is over with the closure of one of the country’s last remaining coalmines in Bradley near Durham.
The owner of the surface mine, the Banks Group, said Bradley will extract its last coal on Monday 17th August, two months after its sister site at Shotton in Northumberland ended its own coal production.
Banks Group applied for permission to extend the life of its last mine in England until 2021 but the application was turned down earlier this summer.
The closure leaves only the Hartington mine in Derbyshire, which had planned to shut at the start of the month, as the last surface mine in England still digging out its remaining coal reserves for longer than expected.
A spokesman for the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy said there is no revised date for the Hartington shutdown “immediately available”.
England’s remaining surface mines have reached the end of their lives less than five years after miners emerged from Britain’s last deep coalmine, the Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire, for the final time in late 2015. Within England, only small underground mines in Cumbria and the Forest of Dean continue to produce modest amounts of coal.
The delay of the Bradley coalmine comes after government faced aggressive criticism for providing the green light to the UK’s first new deep coalmine in 30 years in the same week that the Treasury launched a review into how the UK can end its contribution to global heating.
Coal suffered a steep fall from favour as the UK has set increasingly ambitious climate targets. The fossil fuel industry provided around 40% of Britain’s electricity as recently as 2012, but last year coal-fired power made up just 2% of the UK’s electricity generation, which is the lowest rate since the electricity system was first established back in 1882.
Britain’s total demand for coal fell to 7.9m tonnes last year, according to government figures, down by a third from the year before. The downfall was due to a sharp shift away from using coal-fired power plants and transitioning to using solar panels and heat pump to generating clean power and heating. The official figures show that coal demand from power plants fell by 56% last year to a record low of 2.9m tonnes.
Britain set a record coal-free run earlier this summer, which came to an end after 67 days, 22 hours and 55 minutes when a coal unit at the Drax power plant in North Yorkshire fired up for a post-maintenance test.
Last week the National Grid had to fire up a coal-fired power station for the first time in 55 days after Britain’s record-breaking heatwave brought wind turbines to a near-standstill and caused gas-fired power stations to struggle.
The electricity system operator brought Britain’s latest coal-free streak to an end by calling for the Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire to begin generating electricity before a peak in electricity demand.
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