£1bn potash plans poised to include ‘major changes’

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Fresh plans for a £1bn mining operation in a Yorkshire national park are likely to feature “important and potentially significant changes,” a report prepared for authority members has warned.

Officers say that, following discussions, it appears those behind the project are targeting the overseas market.

Last month it was confirmed developer York Potash had agreed to contribute to the North York Moors Park Authority’s costs to allow it to continue pre-application discussions about the proposed mine at Sneaton, near Whitby. Such an agreement was also in place for its previous application.

A bid to create a potash mine in the national park has stalled owing to growing concerns over the project’s impact on the environment but York Potash has said it plans to put in a fresh application no later than July.

On Thursday members of the park authority’s planning committee will be given an update on the application.

Chris France, the authority’s director of planning, says in a report: “Although the new application has been described by the company as being a refurbishment of the old one, it is understood that there are likely to be important and potentially significant changes, for example, a possible increase in the size of the mine head site at Doves Nest Farm; a considerable extension in the construction timeframe; a likely reduced annual tonnage extraction of polyhalite and a change in the target market for the product from domestic to overseas.”

Last year York Potash announced its application had been delayed to ensure environmental information for the entire project – including the proposed mine, pipeline, materials handling plant and port – was available at the same time.

The company has stressed it will sell to which markets wish to buy its products.

Chris Fraser, CEO of York Potash’s parent company, Sirius Minerals, said: “The areas of extra information required for the previous application were detailed in the reports released by the National Park in July last year.

“Our teams of specialist consultants have been working on addressing these and are continually looking at ways of improving the scheme and reducing the impacts.”

He said a team of specialists is providing all the information and required environmental and other study work which has been agreed in advance with the National Park.

“Prior to any application being submitted there will be a range of public consultation events by both York Potash and the National Park Authority so that people can view the full details of the application and provide their comments.”