Minerals giant ‘still behind’ potash mine plan

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THE multi-national company behind plans to build a £2bn potash mine in Yorkshire has maintained it is fully committed to the scheme despite abandoning a bid to create a global research centre.

Sirius Minerals confirmed yesterday that it would not be accepting a Government grant for almost £3m which would have helped to finance the geoscience research base.

But senior executives were adamant the move did not undermine the future of the proposed mine, which is due to be built in the North York Moors National Park.

While the exact location for the Sirius Global Centre of Excellence in Applied Innovation in Geoscience had yet to be decided, North Yorkshire was one of the leading contenders for the facility to be built.

Sirius Minerals decided not to accept the £2.8m grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as it was deemed a greater financial return could be gleaned from the UK Research and Development tax incentive system.

Representatives from York Potash, a subsidiary of Sirius set up to oversee the creation of the mine, claimed research is still ongoing at specialist facilities in the UK.

York Potash’s head of external affairs, Gareth Edmunds, said: “Our focus remains on working up the best possible planning application as quickly as possible and this remains the quickest way to create high quality long term jobs.

“We are still completing the detailed geological work the centre could have helped with and the skills associated with the project are still being generated in this area.

“There are many long-term benefits associated with the York Potash Project and we look forward to delivering them.”

York Potash is stepping up its recruitment process by setting out the qualifications that will be required for anyone hoping to join its workforce. A jobs prospectus is due to be launched next week, which will set out the career opportunities at the proposed mine.

Exploratory drilling work is continuing in the national park to pinpoint the best location for the development. Drilling is being carried out at a sixth site, and work is expected to be conducted on a total of 10 locations before a planning application is submitted later this year.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in December that Sirius Minerals had claimed the potash mine would spearhead a renaissance in mining to place the UK once again at the forefront of the global industry.

The bid to rejuvenate what was once one of Yorkshire’s most important industrial sectors has been heralded as vital for the nation’s economy, as well as addressing world-wide concerns over the threat of soaring food prices.

The seam in North Yorkshire is one of the world’s most extensive deposits of potash, which is a key component in fertiliser, and it is seen as a hugely important alternative source of the mineral to help to boost crop yields while satiating global food demand.

But national park chiefs have warned York Potash that it faces an “uphill battle” to ensure the mine becomes a reality. The North York Moors National Park Authority’s director of planning, Chris France, stressed the go-ahead for the exploratory drilling work was no indication the overall scheme will be approved.

He claimed that while the park authority is supportive of mineral exploration, national planning policies dictate a different approach to mineral extraction.