In my most recent column, I challenged those who have condemned Cumbria County Council for backing a new coal mine, which would provide coking coal for steelmakers. There is no other way to run steel plants except with this fuel, so how else is steel to be made, I asked?
I received a vociferous response, informing me that I was wildly out of date about steelmaking. Arcelor-Mittal is Europe’s biggest steelmaker, and it already has a fully operational site in Hamburg which is able to make new steel using electric arc furnaces. Which can be fuelled by non-fossil fuels, and thus deemed to be deeply eco-friendly — unlike coal mines.
Apparently, China, where over half the world’s steel is now made, has just adopted a five-year plan to minimise the use of coking coal, and to depend upon electric arc furnaces to keep the furnaces burning. Similar investments are happening in South Korea and in Japan.
I stand corrected. There are obviously viable ways to make steel other than with coking coal. I have thought again, and withdrawn my tacit support for the new coal mine. And obviously so too should Cumbria County Council.