DOZENS of environmentalists, some Kendal residents, staged a protest against a new Cumbria coal mine.

Around 50 demonstrators gathered outside County Hall to protest the planned deep mine near Whitehaven.

The £165 million project was approved by the county council last March on the grounds that it is expected to create around 500 jobs in one of England’s most deprived wards.

A number of environmental activism groups, including Extinction Rebellion Cumbria, took part in the demonstration.

Maggie Mason, a retired county council officer who was among those protesting last Thursday, said: "Although we've made progress in terms of coal-fired power stations closing down, people have so far been frightened to challenge steel."

The West Cumbria Mining company, which is bringing forward the plans, has said it aims to supply the European steel-making market, which currently imports 45 million tonnes annually from the US, Australia, Columbia and Siberia.

Dr Henry Adams, Kendal resident and climate scientist at Lancaster University, said: "Sweden is developing a replacement to using coal for steel production, using hydrogen from renewable electricity. So there are industrial alternatives. What's lacking currently is political will."

"Besides this, we could be recycling greater quantities of steel," Mrs Mason added. "All the work towards better recycling of steel stopped with this government in 2012.

"Our steel industry needs to decarbonise and it needs to do it fast."

Fiona Atkinson, a retired teacher, said: "It's a farce that this government, having professed to care about the environment when it declared a climate emergency, can not act to block this destructive mine. Future generations will look back on this as an act of ecocide.

Another demonstrator, Beki Winter, 38, a Kendal resident and Community Housing Fund Development Officer at Lancaster City Council, said:

"I fully understand the need for jobs in and around Whitehaven. But this is not the way to go about regenerating the West Coast's economy."

"Lancaster City Council has declared a climate emergency, as have a number of local authorities in south Cumbria. Cumbria County Council should do too."