The Public Interest Research Centre (PIRC) reported that 14 companies have applied to dig nearly 60 million tonnes of coal from 58 new or expanded opencast mines in the past 18 months. Many of these are in Northumberland and southern Scotland.
Meanwhile, seven coal-fired facilities are in the pipeline, including one in Scotland proposed last week. However, only Kingsnorth in Kent has yet reached the planning application stage.
PIRC researcher Richard Hawkins said the rising number of opencast mine applications has been driven by coal price hikes. It cost $60 a tonne in 2006 but had risen to $200 earlier this year.
Hawkins added that the UK imports 70 per cent of coal so there is always a market for it and any new coal-fired plant would ensure even longer-term demand. Energy and climate change secretary Ed Miliband is expected to determine the plans for Kingsnorth shortly.
Peel Energy and Danish firm DONG Energy last week revealed proposals for a 1,600MW coal-fired plant at Hunterston in Ayrshire. The companies have promised that their proposal would be ready to incorporate carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology at the earliest opportunity.
They are one of the three remaining bidders in the Department for Energy and Climate Change's CCS demonstration competition.