Plans for £10bn North Yorkshire mine remain on time and on budget, says Sirius

Library image of the planned site  for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire
Library image of the planned site for the York Potash Mine near Whitby in the North York Moors National Park. Photo: John Giles/PA Wire

Sirius Minerals, the developer of the £10bn North Yorkshire polyhalite mine, today confirmed that the project remains on track as it continues to hire more staff.

In a quarterly development update, Sirius said the project is on time and on budget.

Sirius believes the project has discovered the world’s largest high-grade known deposit of polyhalite, a multi-nutrient form of potash

containing potassium, sulphur, magnesium and calcium.

Chris Fraser, the managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “Activity levels at the Woodsmith Mine continue to increase every month and now step up significantly as we commence diaphragm walling activities.

“Our team, including both employees and contractors, continues to grow as we expand the company’s execution capability and we are pleased with the progress being made and the positive attitude across the expanding team.”

With regards to safety, the company said: “Unfortunately, one recordable incident occurred in August during the drilling activities at the Woodsmith site. A thorough investigation has been undertaken from which additional safeguards and procedures have been implemented.”

The statement added: “The company is approaching one million man hours of total project activity and will have completed 12 months of construction activity after the fourth quarter. From January 1 2018 safety reporting will transition to a recordable injury frequency rate framework, consistent with good industry practice.”

Design work has continued to identify simplification and capital reduction opportunities in parts of the project, Sirius said.

These include the redesign of the mine infrastructure between surface and 120 metres below ground, refinement and optimisation of the granulation process in the materials handling facility and simplification of the mineral transport system conveyor design.

Sirius said: “Given the early stage of the overall project development programme, the company believes it is too early to recognise any of these opportunities as a reduction in total project cost.”

Sirius said it has been pursuing the opportunity to accelerate the diaphragm walling component of the shaft sinking programme.

The statement added: “Unfortunately, this opportunity was not able to be captured due to mobilisation and design delays. The opportunity to accelerate the commencement of tunnelling activity continues to be progressed, with further design and logistics works to be completed over the balance of this year before a final decision to proceed can be made.”

Sirius said it has made good progress with the relevant authorities in clearing the conditions related to each work programme.

“The minor planning amendments the company is seeking, as outlined in the previous quarterly development update, are due to be evaluated by

the relevant planning authorities during the next quarter,’ Sirius said.

The company said that site preparation has continued to plan, with significant progress being made at both the Woodsmith and Lockwood Beck sites. At Woodsmith, where there are currently around 230 people engaged in construction activities, work has continued on the pads, civil works and site office facilities. Construction of the pad for the MTS shaft is progressing well and the concrete batch plant, to be used across multiple activities on the Woodsmith site, has been commissioned, Sirius said.

In a note, analysts from Liberum said: “Sirius quarterly project update highlights the mine remains on time and budget, although some of the work schedules have evolved in terms of timing and scope.

“Language around marketing and sales contracts has become incrementally more positive and some colour was given on the current phase of stage two financing discussions.”