THE former mayor of Copeland has called an MP's comments on the proposed coal mine in West Cumbria 'absolute rubbish' and defended the economic case for it. 

Mike Starkie was the former and only elected mayor of Copeland between 2015 and 2023. The post was scrapped when Cumbrian local authorities were reorganised in April and he retired after leaving his position. 

During his time in office, he championed the West Cumbria Mine.

In December last year the secretary of state Michael Gove permitted the mine to go ahead. 

The mine is still proving to be controversial.

Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron called the economic case for the mine 'dead in the water' as the UK steel industry moves away from using large amounts of coking coal for blast furnaces and starts implementing less coal-intensive electric arc furnaces. 

In response to this, Mr Starkie said: "The facts suggest the economic case for West Cumbria Mine is very much alive and the economic outlook for the mine has greatly increased from when it was first proposed.

"The demand for coking coal continues to increase and is projected to do so as far forward as 2040. The price of the coal has reached record levels and remains at elevated levels.

"West Cumbria Mine was always going to be an export-led business and the demand for the coal will far and away outstrip what they are being allowed to produce.

"Once again Tim Farron is talking absolute rubbish.

"The mine is being funded by private investors who understand the economics.

"The only thing [campaign groups and politicians] have achieved with their protests is to hold up much-needed jobs in West Cumbria and held back significant investment. This mine could by now be in full production, benefitting from the elevated price of the coal and providing a huge boost to the West Cumbrian economy.

"There is a strong argument that the longer it takes for this mine to get to full production the worse it will be for the environment as the coal will continue to be sourced elsewhere where it is mined in far less environmentally friendly conditions than what it will in Whitehaven."

READ MORE: MP questions case for Cumbrian coal mine

To this, Mr Farron responded: It wouldn’t be the first time that investors have backed a project for the purposes of a quick short-term profit for themselves followed by disaster for those working in the industry. We desperately need new, well-paid and long-term jobs for the area - if the government agreed, then they’d deliver the tidal schemes on Cumbria’s coast that we have been calling on them to build.

“Instead we have a proposed coal mine, digging up coal for which the UK demand is already drying up. This is a reckless thing to do to our environment, it is economically short-sighted and it’s a desperate betrayal of local people who need real jobs that will last into the future.”

West Cumbria Mining did not respond to a request for comment.