'Our bid for Sirius Minerals will safeguard the project and take it global' - Anglo American boss

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The boss of the global mining giant bidding to take control of Sirius Minerals has said his firm has the capacity to take its products around the world and that he wants the firm to be “part of the future of Yorkshire”.

Mark Cutifani, chief executive of Anglo American, said that he and his firm saw huge potential in the Sirius mining project which aims to extract polyhalite from a mile below the North York Moors to use as fertiliser and said that his firm had the capacity, connections and personnel to take the product into global markets.

Sirius Minerals

Sirius Minerals

Anglo American officially submitted a £405m rescue bid for troubled Sirius this week, which has been struggling to raise financing for the project which will support some 4,000 jobs in the region.

Read more: Anglo American bid £405m for troubled Sirius
Speaking exclusively to The Yorkshire Post, Mr Cutifani said Sirius “ticks all of our boxes” and that he believed his firm’s bid represented the best chance of delivering the scheme.

He said that Anglo American could offer support beyond financing for Sirius, pointing to its expertise in marketing, production and logistics.

And, while acknowledging that Anglo American’s offer would represent a loss to some shareholders, he said he was hopeful that those involved would see the long-term benefits the project would bring to North Yorkshire’s economy.

Mark Cutifani

Mark Cutifani

Speaking during a visit to the mine, Mr Cutifani said: “Across the rest of the industry we have been making the biggest productivity gains over the last five years.

"We have got people on the ground that can support them logistically because we are going to have to get into a lot of markets. We think the infrastructure we have already built provides a running start for the team.

“And finally the financial side of things and the balance sheet we bring. It is so difficult to develop this kind of project if you are a single mine company. Having somebody like Anglo

American that has a business worth more than $40bn, that financial support is very important I think we could provide a lot of certainty to the project and that is important for everyone.”

Sirius Minerals

Sirius Minerals

Mr Cutifani had high praise for the Sirius management team and said the believed CEO Chris Fraser had “left no stone unturned” in terms of looking to secure financing.

Read more: How Sirius can help deal the North South divide
Shareholders in Sirius have been offered 5.5p a share by Anglo American, despite having been valued at 22.38p a year ago.

However Mr Cutifani said that given the level of risk his firm considered the offer to be “fair and reasonable”.

“I have had direct contact from shareholders,” he said.

Sirius Minerals mine near Whitby

Sirius Minerals mine near Whitby

“I understand the disappointment in terms of the price. There are obviously a lot of shareholders that have bought in at a lower price but many of the employees at Sirius are shareholders.

“In talking to people across the business I explained our understanding and concern but at the same time we have had to put on the table the best offer we could that reflects the risk and we have made that very clear.

“The board of Sirius has pointed out that they think this is the best offer they are going to see.

“We think we have done our best with the offer we have put on the table and we are hopeful that people will see the long-term benefits we can bring to the project.”

Read more: Shareholders with Sirius have two options - The Yorkshire Post says
If shareholders agree to the Anglo American offer it will mean that Sirius represents circa 7 to 8 per cent of its total business.

Mr Cutifani said that the products it aims to produce would “move the dial” for Anglo American.

Sirius Minerals mine near Whitby

Sirius Minerals mine near Whitby

Unlike most fertilizers, polyhalite is cleared for use in the growing of organic food. Anglo currently operates in vast markets such as Brazil and China, with Mr Cutifani saying that it plays into the direction that agriculture needs to go in the future to meet climate change targets.

“It is a very clean product and it has a very low carbon footprint,” he said.

Mark Cutifani assured The Yorkshire Post the support he had seen in the North Yorkshire community for the Sirius scheme was “unlike anything I have every seen”.

He said that Sirius was home to “lots of very smart and skilled people” and that Anglo intended to generate jobs.

“Yes we are a big global company but we are very proud of the fact that we try to keep our operations local,” he said.

“We will try and make sure we are a partner of the community behave in the right way and part of the future of Yorkshire. That’s very important to us.”