Anglo-American say 1,300 people are working to build new Woodsmith fertiliser mine near Whitby - with apprentices set to be taken on

Global mining company Anglo American says 1,300 people are now being employed full-time on the construction of a polyhalite fertiliser mine being developed on the North Yorkshire coast.

Meanwhile, excavation work on a 23-mile long conveyor tunnel which will carry the fertiliser from the Woodsmith mine near Sneaton, Whitby, to a processing facility at Wilton, Teesside, has reached the nine mile mark.

The company is sinking a small intermediate shaft for ventilation and access about nine miles in - just beyond Lockwood Beck, near Moorsholm in east Cleveland, off the A171 Birk Brow Road - which will be lined and connected to the tunnel being built.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

Sign up to our Business newsletter

More than a dozen local apprentices are due to be hired shortly to join the 14 apprentices already employed on the project.

The Woodsmith mine near Whitby

Anglo American delivered a progress update as part of a recent interim results announcement to the London Stock Exchange. Its chief executive Mark Cutifani said it expected to invest about £360m on the project this year.

Last month it emerged that the tunnelling work had to be temporarily halted when eight workers tested positive for Covid-19.

The firm said it remained “extremely vigilant” of the risk from the virus and operated strict safety procedures, based on Government guidelines.

Chris Fraser, chief executive officer of Anglo American’s crop nutrients business, which is overseeing the Woodsmith mine project, said: “The first half of the year hasn’t been without its difficulties for everyone, not least because of the ongoing restrictions that we’ve been working with during the pandemic.

“But I am incredibly proud that the whole team has pulled together and that we’re continuing to provide important opportunities for people in the region.”

Separately, the project’s charitable foundation has donated £236,328 to good causes and also made donations to food banks and other emergency food supplies during the pandemic.

Two one mile deep mine shafts are being dug to mine polyhalite from under the North York Moors, which is being marketed as a low carbon, environmentally friendly fertiliser.

Anglo American says most of the surface infrastructure connected to the mine is being built underground and the site near Sneaton will be eventually landscaped to minimise the visual impact on the surrounding countryside.

Once the Woodsmith mine is fully up and running Anglo American expects to export up to ten million tonnes a year of polyhalite abroad using the Redcar Bulk Terminal, a multi-purpose deep water port that forms part of the Teesworks site near Redcar.

An agreement reached earlier this year also means that an estimated 1.5m tonnes of material from the tunnel excavation work which may otherwise have been disposed of is being used to assist with land remediation at Teesworks.

Anglo American took over the mining project from Sirius last year after the latter ran into financial difficulties.

The move angered thousands of small shareholders in Sirius - many from Teesside - who were left with major losses due to what was described at the time as a “cut price buyout” of the firm.