Sirius Minerals’ giant polyhalite Woodsmith Mine, near Whitby, is a £3.2bn capital investment project which is expected to generate £100bn for the UK economy over the next 50 years. Apart from creating 1,000, long term, skilled jobs, the project is also set to support 1,500 supply chain jobs.
Gareth Edmunds, the company’s external affairs director, also revealed that Sirius aims to provide a long term boost for North Yorkshire’s economy by encouraging more pupils to focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects at school.
However, in common with many Yorkshire employers, Sirius is concerned about the “hugely frustrating” cancellations and delays on the train system serving Scarborough. The company fears it could put people off investing in the area.
Mr Edmunds said: “At full production we estimate it (the mine) will be producing something like £2.5bn of exports a year and that’s worth about seven per cent of our trade deficit, based on 2016 figures. So for the UK as a whole, and not just North Yorkshire, it will have a major impact.”
“There’s a steady flow of new people joining the project all the time. As we ramp up the project, there will be a big push to get these opportunities available to as many local people as possible.”
Mr Edmunds added: “The support for the work continues to grow. During the planning process we had a huge amount of support; 97 per cent of responses to the National Park Authority were positive.
“This is real economic stimulus for the country and we are also producing a product that the world needs.
“The deposits here of polyhalite can play a major role in helping to improve food security, mainly through providing more balanced nutrition for crops and (supporting) better farming practices.
“The majority of our team at HQ are from the local area. We have got our own skills programme to try and encourage the development of the right kinds of skills. We have a big focus on STEM and on trying to help enrich the curriculum in schools and colleges throughout the area. We do that to benefit all of the businesses in the area.”
“We aim to hit the first polyhalite in 2021 and be in full operation as quickly as possible afterwards.”
Sirius Minerals’ polyhalite project in North Yorkshire could help the UK to address the challenges and opportunities of the post-Brexit world, according to the scheme’s supporters.
A report on the economic case for the polyhalite mine, which was written by the specialist consultancy Quod, concluded that the project could permanently add up to 17 per cent to North Yorkshire’s economic output.
The report also concluded that the £316m annual running costs will stimulate local supply chains.
Mr Edmunds said the project also provided opportunities for businesses to establish a base close to the mine.
He added: “Aside from the construction roles you would have on a project like this, the jobs are very varied and wide ranging.
“We are a FTSE 250 business based in Scarborough and we have all the corporate functions that go with a business like that from finance and IT to PR (public relations), HR (human resources) , design and engineering.”
Mr Edmunds, who has been involved in the project since it was first proposed in 2011, said Sirius was trying to keep its destiny in its own hands as much as possible.
He added: “But transport infrastructure is key in places like Scarborough and there is a big push in making sure young people who are coming out of schools and colleges have the right skills. There needs to be a healthy balance between those two.
“Failures in the train system are hugely frustrating. It has a day to day operational effect on us. We have international investors and visitors coming to see us and if they can’t get the 45 miles from York to Scarborough it can be a problem for us. It puts people off potentially investing in the area. We are being let down.”
A spokesperson for TransPennine Express, said : “We continue to work closely with Network Rail and other train operators to improve the punctuality of rail services.
“In recent times, around three quarter of our delays we have faced have been caused by external factors, including the performance of rail infrastructure and issues with other operators trains. Later this year, we will be introducing the first of our brand new five carriage trains on the route between York and Scarborough which forms part of our overall £500m investment.”