Multinational switches focus to £2bn Yorkshire potash project

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A MULTINATIONAL company has announced it is scaling back its operations around the globe to focus on creating a £2bn mining operation in a Yorkshire national park.

Sirius Minerals confirmed yesterday it due to invest almost £55m in ensuring the potash mine in the North York Moors National Park becomes a reality.

The multi-million pound investment, which is being provided from the firm’s cash reserves for the last financial year, will fund an ongoing exploratory drilling programme as well as planning applications and feasibility studies for the York Potash Project.

Sirius Minerals is now focusing its attention on the proposed Yorkshire mine, which is expected to create up to 5,000 jobs and would be the first operation of its kind in the UK for nearly 40 years, instead of other schemes in Adavale and Canning in Australia and another in Dakota in the USA.

The switch in focus on to the Yorkshire project has led to a group “paper loss” of £60.1m for the last financial year, although a Sirius Minerals spokesman stressed the firm is not embroiled in a financial crisis.

Studies have revealed the seam in North Yorkshire is one of the world’s most extensive deposits of potash, which is a key component in fertiliser, and it is seen as a hugely important alternative source of the mineral to help to boost crop yields and satiate global food demand.

Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, the managing director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, Chris Fraser, said: “We have aligned our focus on the York Potash Project as this is our flagship asset. It is seen as an extremely valuable resource of potash, and we will be looking to move forward with the Yorkshire scheme as soon as possible.”

While the precise location of the proposed mine has yet to be finalised, a planning application is due to be submitted to the North York Moors National Park Authority by the end of the year.

Draft proposals are due to go out to public consultation in the autumn once the exploratory drilling work has been completed. Drilling is due to start at a seventh site, and work is expected to be conducted on a total of 10 locations.

The Yorkshire Post revealed earlier this month that senior executives from Sirius Minerals were adamant the company was firmly committed to the proposed mining operation despite abandoning a bid to create a global research centre.

Sirius Minerals has decided not to accept a Government grant for almost £3m which would have helped to finance the geoscience research base. While the exact location for the Sirius Global Centre of Excellence in Applied Innovation in Geoscience had yet to be decided, North Yorkshire was one of the leading contenders for the facility to be built.

Sirius Minerals opted not to accept the £2.8m grant from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as it was deemed a greater financial return could be gleaned from the UK Research and Development tax incentive system.

But national park chiefs have warned that the company faces an “uphill battle” to build the actual mine as the go-ahead for the exploratory drilling work was no indication the overall scheme will be approved.

Officials claimed that while the park authority is supportive of mineral exploration, national planning policies dictate a different approach to mineral extraction.