Work on West Cumbria’s new undersea coal mine will start this year.

West Cumbria Mining has confirmed work on Woodhouse Colliery will start before the end of 2019, with coal production expected to start within two years from the beginning of construction.

The company is expecting to extract and process around 2.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year to supply into the UK and European steel-making coal plants, which currently import around 45 million tonnes a year from the USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.

Since 2014, the company has been working on its plans to develop a 21st century mine.

A spokesman for WCM said: “This has included careful thought and consideration about the design of the surface infrastructure to minimise any potential impact from noise, dust and light.

“A considerable number of environmental and ecological surveys have been completed, alongside a programme of coal exploration, both onshore and offshore which has proven the presence of high-quality coal for use in the steel industry.”

The operational lifespan of the site is expected to be of a minimum of 40 years.

WCM plans to mine two main seams, Bannock Band and Main Band. Both seams typically average around 2.4m in thickness, with the Main Band being worked first.

The company says coal extracted at the site is rare and classified as a High Volatile, Hard Coking Coal (HV HCC), which is sought after for its characteristics by steel mills.

WCM has pledged to move all its products by rail via a buried 2.2k-long conveyor to a train loading facility, with its own dedicated siding on the Cumbria Coast railway line. The trains will be loaded with a fast turn-around of approximately 45 minutes using a high speed train loader.

They will then head to the Redcar Bulk Terminal, an operational deep port facility on the East Coast, for onward shipment to Europe or UK steel producers.

As part of the planning approval, the county council has set several planning conditions.

These include contributions towards the road network, a cycle path as well as restoration work to former mineworks.