British teenager goes on hunger strike in fight against coal mine

Updated: Jul 28, 2020

McKenzie-Jackson demonstrating in Westminster against the proposed Woodhouse Colliery coal mine. Image courtesy of the Metro.


The Bigger Picture (London) — British teenager Elijah McKenzie-Jackson, 16, has been on hunger strike for over a week now in an attempt to thwart the construction of the Woodhouse Colliery, a coal mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Since the 27th of January, McKenzie-Jackson, a high-profile British climate activist who is part of Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future campaign and UK activist group UKSCN, has been waking up in the early hours of the morning to protest against the mine outside Westminster, before going to school. All the while, he has been on hunger strike.

McKenzie-Jackson told the British news outlet Metro that he felt “invisible” outside Parliament during his daily demonstrations against the mine, writing on Twitter that “there has been very little traction and awareness about this mine”.

MacKenzie-Jackson joined by fellow climate activists and friends on the sixth day of his hunger strike against the coal mine. Image courtesy of @elijahmckenzee.


The mine in question would be Britain’s first deep coal mine for over three decades. Projected to produce 3 million tonnes of coal per year once it is up and running (the opening date is slated for this year, with full production taking place from 2023 onwards), the coal mine is also expected to employ 500 workers, which has been cited by supporters of the mine as a justification for its construction. But as its opponents point out, it is extremely costly, £165m, and has concerning environmental impacts.

In light of the climate crisis, activists have been pressuring nations and corporations across the world to stop financing, constructing and operating coal mines - therefore, they say, constructing a new coal mine is not what the environment needs. The underground workings of the mine extend to within 5 miles of nuclear ponds at Sellafield, and the mine is near a proposed nuclear facility site at Moorside, in Cumbria; eliciting concerns about both the safety of workers and the environmental impacts of any accidents at the facility. The think tank Green Alliance has also reported that the mine will produce 8.4m tonnes of CO2 a year, equivalent to emissions from more than a million homes, even though the West Cumbria Mining Company, who is behind the project, claims the mine will be “carbon-neutral”.

McKenzie-Jackson also told the Metro that “we need to think about the generation to come… who will be affected [by the mines]”. As Tim Farron, the Liberal Democrat MP, has said about the mines, "Cumbria has so many renewable resources to provide energy - water, wind and solar - and we should most definitely not be taking the backwards step of opening a new coal mine."

Elijah, who is tweeting daily updates about his activism against the coal mines, also said that although his GSCEs are in a few months, he “can’t put activism on hold... we can’t put anything else on hold... the more pollution produced the more I will be out on the streets making an impact”.

“You can’t put activism on hold. We can’t put anything else on hold. The more pollution produced the more I will be out on the streets making an impact" - Elijah McKenzie-Jackson

To support Elijah McKenzie-Jackson and join him in the fight against the Woodhouse Colliery, follow him on Instagram and Twitter. To raise awareness, retweet his daily Twitter updates, post about his activism on social media and share this article.

Words by Darcy Miller