DEVELOPERS behind plans to create a £1.7bn potash mine have admitted that a pipeline to transport mineral ore across a Yorkshire national park will run through some of Britain’s most sensitive protected environments.
Details have been unveiled for the proposed route of the 27-mile pipeline from the site earmarked for the mineshaft on farmland in the North York Moors National Park to a processing plant in Teesside.
But York Potash, the firm behind the scheme to exploit one of the world’s most extensive seams of the mineral, admitted yesterday that the pipeline’s proposed route runs across or near four Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSIs).
A total of 17 miles of the pipeline, which would be buried more than 3ft underground, would pass through the national park from the proposed mine close to Sneaton, to the south of Whitby, to a processing plant at Wilton, near Middlesbrough.
However, York Potash’s directors maintained every effort would be made to minimise the environmental impact and affected habitats would be returned to their original state. They also stressed other pipelines used for utilities including gas have already been built in the national park.
The managing director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, the parent company of York Potash, Chris Fraser, said: “We believe this is the best, most efficient and environmentally acceptable solution for moving the potash out of the national park and without long-term disruption to local communities. Importantly, it would mean that we do not have to move the mineral by road or rail which helps to further reduce any impact of the proposals.”
A full planning application for the mine is expected to be submitted to the North York Moors National Park Authority by the end of the year. But the decision as to whether the proposed pipeline will be built rests with a division of the Planning inspectorate called National Infrastructure Planning, which has confirmed that an application is expected to be submitted this month.
The national park authority is a key consultee and senior officers told the Yorkshire Post that they will be petitioning National Infrastructure Planning officials to ensure safeguards are put in place to minimise the environmental impact if the application is approved. The authority’s head of development management, Mark Hill, admitted work to construct the pipeline, which is expected to last 10 months, could affect the area’s lucrative tourism industry.
He added: “The timing of the work could prove to be critical, but the length of time that it is expected to take will be during one of the main tourism periods. We will be working closely with National Infrastructure Planning to ensure the impact on the landscape will be kept to a minimum, if the application is approved.”
The four SSSIs which would be affected are the North York Moors, Tranmire, Pinkney and Gerrick Woods and Little Beck Wood. The pipeline would run across a mile of low grade moorland at Liverton and Waupley, and for about 330 yards through High Tranmire.
York Potash announced in September that it plans to build the mine on farmland near Sneaton after carrying out exploratory drilling to pinpoint the best location to mine the seam of potash, a key component in fertiliser and vital to helping satiate global food demand. The mine is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs and as many as 4,000 jobs in the wider economy.
A consultation on the proposed pipeline has been launched by York Potash and public exhibitions will be staged later this month.