Need For Coal

Why import coal when we can mine our own coal?

Coal is a valuable mineral resource that is used for a variety of purposes in the UK including the manufacture of steel, cement, carbon fibre and agriculture. The graphic below highlights the source of the coal needed in the UK and the changes in tonnage since 2016.


Even if the remaining UK coal fired power stations were closed today there is still a five to six million tonnes demand for coal in the UK to manufacture steel, cement and for other industrial processes and markets.

• Importing coal produces more CO2 than indigenous coal

• 8.7mt of coal was used to generate electricity in UK coal fired power stations, and around 5.5mt was used for commercial and industrial uses, such as steel, cement, food manufacture, and other uses

• Over the first ten months of 2018 net imports of coal were up by 17.5%

It makes environmental, economic and social sense to produce the coal that the UK continues to need for a range of essential industrial uses such as steel and cement manufacture by mining it here in the UK. The UK consumed 14.2 million tonnes (mt) coal in 2017 (DUKES figures), of which 26% was imported from Russia - the largest international supplier

The associated greenhouse gas emissions generated by the transportation of these imports, from Russia to UK customers, are between five and seven times higher than transporting coal mined in the UK. Increasing imports of coal simply 'off-shores' of the UK's environmental responsibilities without the significant local economic and employment opportunities and environmental enhancements that indigenous coal production deliver.

Steel Manufacture

Coal is an essential mineral in the production of steel. The process of creating steel is outlined below:

  1. Coking coal is firstly converted to coke by driving off impurities to leave almost pure carbon, which is done by heating the coking coal to around 1000-1100ºC in the absence of oxygen.
  2. The coke is then added to a blast furnace with pellet, iron ore, sintered ore and limestone to produce the molten iron needed to produce the steel.
  3.  The iron is then mixed with steel scrap (less than 30%) and small amounts of flux and added to a basic oxygen furnace, which produces liquid steel.

One tonne of coal is needed to produce 1.25 tonne of crude steel. 

Cement Manufacture

Coal is used as an energy source in cement production.

Cement is made by combining limestone, silica, iron oxide and alumina in a high temperature kiln, often fuelled by coal, to a temperature of about 1450°C. This transforms the into a substance known as clinker, which is mixed with gypsum to create cement.

One tonne of coal is needed to produce 30 tonne of cement. 

The development of new surface coal mines is important to support many British industries. By mining our own coal we:

  • Increase the security of supply of power by reducing reliance on foreign countries such as Colombia, Russia and the USA for imported fuel
  • Help keep consumer bills low
  • Create jobs in the UK
  • Help the balance of trade deficit
  • Provide valuable tax receipts and business rates to national and local government
  • Reduce the distance coal has to travel, thereby saving carbon in transportation
  • Ensure it is mined in a safe manner to the highest environmental standards. Coal mined in the likes of Russia and Colombia is mined under lower environmental standards than in the UK
  • Support local businesses who provide support services to surface mines
  • Keep money and skills within the UK

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