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.

By Eddie Bisknell
Monday, 28th February 2022, 9:39 pm

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.

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Anti-fracking campaigners from Eckington and Marsh Lane after INEOS outlined plans to drill in the area

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.

Anti-fracking sign in Marsh Lane.

“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”.

As for obtaining gas from shale deposits, the report says shale covers a large part of the county and one site exploration was granted permission in Bramley Moor Lane near the village of Marsh Lane, near Eckington.

This application, from petrochemicals firm Ineos, was approved by Government planning inspector Elizabeth Hill in August 2018 following a heated public inquiry.

The draft minerals plan said the permission expired in August 2021.

It includes a map showing the location of potential hydrocarbon resources from shale gas.

This appears to show an area of land covering Bolsover, Staveley and Eckington in the northern part of Derbyshire and parts of Erewash, including Borrowash and Shadlow, stretching from Derby to Loughborough.

The report quotes oil and gas development as being encouraged in coal mines in active and abandoned coalfield areas.

It details that there is currently an effective moratorium on any further hydraulic fracturing (fracking) consents following seismic activity generated from Cuadrilla’s Preston New Road site in Lancashire in 2018.

The report also references the Government’s aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050, which would still be 70 per cent of the current gas usage.

It says the exploration of extracting gas from shale should only be supported if it can be done in a safe and sustainable way, led by science, causes only minimal disturbance and prevents the risk of damage.

The report says: “Modern society and the benefits it enjoys are highly dependent on the continued supply of energy, and whilst the Government seeks to transform energy supply to be derived principally from non-fossil fuel clean technologies, the continued supply of oil and gas will still be required during this transition.

“In view of the lack of knowledge about the location and scale of economically viable oil and gas resources, the plan will maintain their supply by adopting a plan wide policy approach which allows for their exploration, appraisal and production subject to meeting a detailed set of criteria.”

In response, campaign group Transition Chesterfield said: “If Derbyshire County Council spent more time and effort in reducing energy demand – e.g. promoting insulation of homes and buildings or reduction of traffic – and developing renewable energy sources then there would be no need to exploit and extract more climate wrecking fossil fuel energy.

“The council needs to wake up and recognise the devastating consequences of climate change which we are already seeing in Derbyshire.

“We should be taking urgent steps to reduce emissions of carbon, not facilitating the extraction of more unnecessary and damaging fossil fuels.”

It suggests the following condition for coal and gas exploration: “Climate change impacts should, as far as possible, be avoided and schemes should demonstrate that there is no viable substitute for the mineral/energy and that there is no net increase in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from its extraction and use, taking into account the release of fugitive emissions.”