Workington is set to get a massive economic boost from plans to bring coal mining back to West Cumbria.

A £14.7 million scheme to investigate 200sq km of seabed off the west coast was this week unveiled.

It would seek out viable seams of coking coal to be used in the steel industry.

West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the project, estimates that 500 jobs could be created.

It would aim to open a new mine next to former Haig Colliery at Whitehaven.

It also wants to use the area’s existing infrastructure to transport coal across the world.

Dozens of local businesses could benefit from working with the company if the plan goes ahead.

Mark Kirkbride, chief executive officer of West Cumbria Mining, said: “Workington has a very good port and we are keen to look at using this to ship the coal to markets in the UK and Europe where there is strong demand for high quality coking coal.”

An offshore drilling programme will begin next year to confirm the coal’s quality and seams under the sea.

A full planning application is expected to be lodged in two years, with the mine being fully operational by early 2018.

The company is initially focusing efforts in the Whitehaven area but will carry out initial investigations along the coast.

It believes there is over 750 million tonnes of coking coal available.

Mr Kirkbride added: “The company is delighted to announce the completion of financing for its project.

“This is a new chapter in the story of the UK coal mining industry. Cumbria has a strong mining heritage.

“We believe that mining has the potential to bring significant economic benefits to the local area, including high quality new jobs.

“We’re committed to maximising local resources and skills and recruiting locally wherever possible.”

West Cumbria Mining wants to produce around three million tonnes of coking coal a year.

The news was welcomed by Cumbria County Council, which will decide on the firm’s planning application.

Rob Johnston, chief executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, said: “This is tremendous news. This will bring benefits locally via jobs and potential opportunities for other local businesses.

“It’s good that once again West Cumbria plays a part in the world economy.”

Mary Bainbridge, mayor of Workington, said: “We are desperate for jobs and it I think it will be a great economic boost for West Cumbria.”

Andrew Lawson, Workington town and Allerdale councillor, said: “It is welcome news. It brings the prospect of more jobs to Workington and West Cumbria in general.”

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