Hydrological and Hydrogeological Support for Proposed Metallurgical Coal Mine

Case Study

West Cumbria MiningESI, now part of Stantec, have been retained by West Cumbria Mining to provide hydrological and hydrogeological support for a proposed onshore/offshore metallurgical coal mine on the Cumbrian coast near Whitehaven.

The Site


West CumbriaWest Cumbria Mining Ltd are proposing to construct a deep coal mine from a former industrial site on the outskirts of Whitehaven in Cumbria.


The mine would access Carboniferous Coal Measures to a maximum depth of around 550 m via existing drifts associated with a former anhydrite mine. The coal would be extracted from areas both onshore and offshore and then processed on site, before being loaded onto trains at a nearby proposed Rail Loading Facility.



Nature of Our Work


ESI has been involved in various aspects of the proposed development:


Planning support
The planning process requires a hydrogeological impact assessment and flood risk assessment as part of the Environmental Statement.


The proposed development comprises two main areas of development at surface – the main processing plant and a rail loading facility, along with a buried conveyor connecting them. Above ground the key focus for these areas is the management of surface water to prevent flooding and maintain water quality in the receiving waters. Legacy contamination from former site uses adds an extra issue for consideration in the assessments.


Beneath the surface the primary focus is the impact of dewatering and associated discharge. The St Bees Sandstone, a principal aquifer and source for local water supply, lies above the proposed mine.


Permitting support
West Cumbria MiningIn addition to planning, we have also been involved with permitting issues including:

  • Discharge consents for:
    • initial dewatering of the existing mine (which is flooded),
    • long-term discharge from the dewatered mines and surface sites
  • Feasibility of groundwater abstraction for provision of process water.


Hydrogeological data
ESI has also been involved in gathering hydrogeological data (including flow logging to identify potential inflow horizons) from investigation boreholes.



The Outcome


Although the planning application is still to be submitted by the client, the initial project outcomes include the following:

  • All aspects of the work required were delivered on time.
  • We have helped the client converge on a solution for discharge of dewatering water. This proved challenging as significant issues were associated with each option.
  • The regulator’s peer reviewer has confirmed the work supplied meets the general appropriateness required to support the application.