ENVIRONMENTALISTS are urging the Government to block the further development of opencast mines, arguing new figures reveal UK power stations already have enough coal.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire is being urged to revoke permission for the development, near Dipton, in County Durham, and block a site at Druridge Bay, in Northumberland.

Friends of the Earth has said power stations already have enough stock-piled coal to last until 2025, when coal-fired power generation is due to end.

The group’s fossil free campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said: “With the world facing a climate emergency it’s time to consign coal to the history books and build a cleaner, safer future based on energy efficiency and the UK’s vast renewable power potential.”

The Coal Action Network is waiting on Mr Brokenshire to make a decision on the future of the Bradley site after Government lawyers admitted the original decision-making process was flawed.

Protestors have said they could still pursue a judicial review into the controversial scheme to remove 500,000 tonnes of coal from the land, which got underway last June.

The company behind the work, Banks Group, which is based in County Durham, has revealed plans to expand the site towards the village of Leadgate, but protestors argue none of the coal from the site is needed to fuel power stations.

Mr Brokenshire has said he will make a decision on the future of both sites by June 13.

It is understood that at the end of last year 4.1 million tonnes of coal was stockpiled at UK power stations and analysis by Friends of the Earth indicates that this is more than double the 1.6 million tonnes of coal that the Government predicts the country will need for UK coal-fired electricity generation.

The Coal Action Network has suggested that this excess in coal in the UK is triggering increased exports of the fossil fuel onto the global market, with exports of coal from the UK at an eight year high, increasing 28 per cent in 2018.

Isobel Tarr from the Coal Action Network said: “Despite a climate emergency, the UK Government’s inaction on stopping coal mining has contributed to a surplus of the world’s most polluting fossil fuel.

“These figures show that the UK is in the strongest position possible to leave coal in the past.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Local Government and Communities said it would not be appropriate to comment further as the applications are subject to the Secretary of State’s determination.

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, said: “As a significant developer of new renewable energy projects, we are fully committed to the organised transition towards a low carbon economy, and we are already working successfully within the framework set by Government to phase unabated coal out of the electricity generating system by 2025.

“However, the undeniable fact remains that the UK still needs coal for a range of other essential industrial uses, such as steel, cement and food production and heritage railways, and an increasing shortfall in domestic supply has meant that this need has had to increasingly be met through coal imports from distant locations.”