Calls to protect countryside as massive seam of potash found

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DEVELOPERS have been urged to step up efforts to minimise the impact of a potash mine on a Yorkshire national park after one of the world’s most extensive deposits of the mineral has been unearthed.

York Potash, the company behind the plans to create the first mine of its kind in the UK for nearly 40 years, has revealed that it has discovered a potash intersection nearly four times as thick as had initially been hoped.

Exploratory drilling work is continuing across the North York Moors National Park to pinpoint the best location for the multi-million pound development, which is expected to create up to 5,000 jobs.

The MP for Scarborough and Whitby, Robert Goodwill, has claimed the proposed mine will bring a welcome economic boost to the Yorkshire coast, where employment opportunities are limited.

But he warned the benefits should not be at the expense of the national park’s landscape, and he has previously claimed York Potash should not be handed an “environmental blank cheque” to push ahead with the scheme.

Mr Goodwill has now urged the company to look at further minimising the impact on the countryside after it emerged the potash deposits are even more extensive than first thought.

He said: “It is almost certain that the mine head will be within the national park, and even more effort should now be made to ensure that it does not impact on the environment.

“Seeing as such a valuable seam has been found, I would urge the company to look at introducing additional measures such as increasing the screening of the mine and moving more of the operations below ground.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed on Friday that York Potash’s parent company, the multi-national firm Sirius Minerals, had announced that a 60ft-thick seam of high grade polyhalite – potassium sulphate – had been found.

The mineral is an essential component of fertiliser and it had initially been hoped that a seam just 16ft thick would be uncovered. A company spokesman admitted that the discovery had “exceeded expectations”.

He stressed that every effort will be undertaken to minimise the impact of the mine on the environment, but claimed additional measures are unlikely to be included just because a more extensive seam had been discovered.

The spokesman said: “Protecting the surrounding landscape has always been at the forefront of our plans from the outset.

“The proposals we are working on are to an extremely high environmental standard and this will continue to be one of the key areas of a planning application when it is submitted.”

Test results which have revealed the polyhalite seam were collected from the first site of exploratory drilling work to the south-east of Hawsker, near Robin Hood’s Bay.

The mineral cores have now been sent for full chemical analysis at the British Geological Survey’s laboratories with results due in about four weeks.

As many as 10 temporary drilling rigs are planned in the national park before a full planning application for the mine is submitted next year.

Residents have already voiced fears that a major drilling operation in the park would destroy one of the country’s finest landscapes.

Concerns have also been voiced about the amount of traffic which would be generated if the potash mine goes ahead.