UK: Coal mining and ‘fracking’ not ruled out in Derbyshire

Coal mining and “fracking” for gas in Derbyshire has not been ruled out in a plan for the county’s natural resource demands over the next couple of decades.

A blueprint for future quarrying and mining operations up until 2038 – the joint Derbyshire and Derby Minerals Local Plan – discusses the county’s use of natural resources. While it does list a significant number of substantial roadblocks to potential coal mining and gas fracking, Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council do not rule the proposals out. The plan also details in depth where coal mining and fracking – the use of water and sand to crack rocks to gather underground gas – could most likely occur.

It says future coal mining schemes would have to be environmentally acceptable or provide benefits outweighing the environmental impacts. Campaign group Transition Chesterfield has said the authorities need to “wake up” to the “devastating consequences” of climate change which are already occurring in the county. On coal, the plan says: “In recognition of the extent of the remaining commercially workable surface and underground coal resource in Derbyshire, combined with the current lack of a mining industry in the county, rather than identifying specific areas where coal extraction may be acceptable, the plan adopts a plan wide approach to the entire surface and underground coal resource areas.

“This is considered a more flexible approach where all the remaining coal resources would be subject to appropriate detailed consideration in accordance with the policies in the plan and no areas were automatically excluded from future consideration.

“It would also avoid the potential for planning blight arising from the identification of specific sites or areas for future coal working. “The responsibility for developing individual proposals would be placed in the hands of the mining industry.”

A map included as part of the plan shows a “coal bearing strata at surface” running down almost the entire eastern side of Derbyshire from Sheffield to past Ilkeston, with a further large area covering Swadlincote and the surrounding area. It also shows a “concealed coal bearing strata” in the very southern tip of Derbyshire, around Rosliston, and another area covering Burton and the eastern tip of the county. The plan says: “Proposals for the extraction of coal by surface mining methods and deep mined coal and the disposal of colliery spoil will only be supported where it can be demonstrated that the development satisfies the following requirements:

“That it is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning agreements and obligations. “Or, if it is not environmentally acceptable, that it would provide national, local or community benefits of a scale which clearly outweigh the likely impacts – taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts.”
The plan details that oil and gas had been worked at Hardstoft, Calow and Ironville and that exploratory wells have been “sunk” at Ridgeway, Bramley Moor, Renishaw, Whitwell, Shirebrook, Heath, Golden Valley (near Ripley) and Sawley. It says the prospects of extracting gas from coal mines in Derbyshire’s northern and southern coalfields are “poor”. The report says there is “little potential” for underground coal gasification in Derbyshire and there has been “no known commercial interest at present”.