Green power plants could rekindle UK coal mining

New technology to make coal-fired power stations more environmentally friendly could lead to a resurgence in the British coal mining industry.

New technology to make coal-fired power stations more environmentally friendly could lead to a resurgence in the British coal mining industry, according to RJB Mining, the UK’s largest coal producer.

The company has identified three mines as suitable for development if funding is secured to introduce new technology at coal-fired power stations. Two of the mines are Thorne in South Yorkshire, where shafts sunk by British Coal 10 years ago have been mothballed, and Witham in Nottinghamshire, which has 600m tonnes of coal reserves.

Stuart Oliver, a spokesman for RJB Mining, which owns 13 of Britain’s 17 remaining deep mines, said each of the three pits could provide employment for 500 people for the next 50 years.

‘There are still massive reserves of coal that could be developed, enough to provide energy for generations to come, but most coal is currently burnt using 40-year-old technology,’ Oliver said.

Several new methods of burning coal more efficiently and cleanly have already been developed in government-funded research projects. They include using special steels that allow hotter steam to be produced at higher pressures. This increases efficiency and reduces carbon dioxide emissions.

Oliver said that the government could encourage coal producers to invest in this new infrastructure in the same way that it supports renewable energy producers — by charging consumers a premium on their electricity bill.

‘The government is seeking to generate 10% of the UK’s electricity using renewable energy sources by 2010, which would need £600m in support each year. For about a third of that cost you could get the same amount of clean, coal-fired electricity,’ Oliver claimed.