We should not give in to defeatism over Sirius Minerals - Mark Casci

The mine development in North Yorkshire
The mine development in North Yorkshire
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Life is rarely all good and bad and we have seen that manifested in spades this week in terms of developments of Yorkshire’s economy.

This week alone has seen two significant pieces of extremely welcome news for the region.

Investment deal for Link signed off for Leeds

Investment deal for Link signed off for Leeds

Today The Yorkshire Post is able to reveal details of a deal, several weeks in the making, to bring the global Link Group to the city.

The Australian-owned firm will make Leeds its Northern Hub, investing some £27m into the city and creating some 400 new and highly-skilled jobs in the city.

It comes just 24 hours after broadcaster Sky announced a new Innovation Hub will be created in Leeds, a move that will see the city the focus of a drive to develop talent and content for future television series.

The good news was of course tempered by the revelation that plans for a multi-billion pound mine operation in North Yorkshire have been thrown into doubt.

Link to invest 27m into Leeds

Link to invest 27m into Leeds

Sirius Minerals £3.2bn plan for a polyhalite mine near Whitby was set to create circa 1,200 jobs and had been heralded as one of the biggest developments for the Yorkshire coastline since the railway age began bringing thousands of tourists to its beaches.

Read more: Mine site under threat

Read more: PM invited for crisis talks over North Yorkshire mine

However the project is now very much on the rocks as Sirius struggles with cashflow. A $500m bond offering is to be scrapped and the firm has warned it will run out of money by the end of the year if it could not raise funds to unlock its £2bn credit facility with JP Morgan.

Should our cities be the only focus for investment?

Should our cities be the only focus for investment?

Sirius had prevailed upon the Government for support in the form of $1bn in bonds but was rejected.

Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald, a valuable voice of reason during last year’s interminable rail chaos in his capacity as shadow minister for transport, took aim at Number 10 for not stepping in.

While rightly upbraiding the Theresa May’s administration’s paltry regard for the Northern Powerhouse, he attempted to draw comparison between the Government’s refusal to assist Sirius and what he called “tax breaks for gambling bankers”.

I find it virtually impossible to fault the Government’s stance on this.

The economy is contracting and issuing such a high value of bonds would have been a big risk of taxpayers money in a climate that is far from rosy.

The best route Sirius has to ensuring that it can deliver on its ambitious and highly-welcome plan for our region lies in raising private capital.

However, after years of planning, it now finds itself fishing a very shallow pool as global market conditions cloud the project in doubt.

The failure of the mine project would be a tragedy for Yorkshire.

This would be a cutting-edge industrial boon for a region I know very well, having grown up just a few miles from Whitby.

This proud northern outpost of Yorkshire is rich in heritage and natural beauty but frankly lacking in high-skilled job opportunities for its populace, especially those at the younger end of the spectrum.

We should also spare a thought for those investors who have put cash into Sirius and backed its plan for the mine.

Four hundred new finance jobs in Leeds is amazing news and those involved with the LEP should once again be congratulated on delivering yet more inward investment into the region.

Let us not forget that it is less than a year since Leeds landed Channel 4 and Reed Smith. Not to far from Leeds Bradford has this year welcomed a new facility from PwC and Halifax has brought AND Digital to the town.

However my concern at this stage is that while our cities look to be highly attractive propositions, infrastructure projects on a grander scale look more challenging, especially when based in more rural areas.

Many have pointed toward the consistent failures encountered by those who have attempted new mining projects in the UK in recent years and attempted to paint the North Yorkshire potash mine as merely the latest chapter in that inglorious history,

I, along with the rest of the region, will hope that defeatism does not prove to be true.