Hundreds of jobs were axed at Boulby Mine today (Thursday) with immediate effect - with a further 300 plus set to be lost within the next three years.
The shock announcement came to employees with revelations that “economically-feasible” potash reserves that Boulby mine for are running out.
Bosses at the troubled mine just north of Staithes said it meant there had to be a radical re-structure with £20 million being ploughed into the venture by parent company ICL UK to enable it to produce Polysulphate for use as a fertiliser instead of potash.
A further £20 million could follow that would enable Boulby to expand production from 200,000 tonnes this year to one million tonnes by 2020.
But workers were left reeling as Boulby bosses said in order to stay “economically viable” while the changes took place the jobs would need to go.
Peter Smith, Executive Vice President-Potash of ICL, “We understand that proposals for staffing reductions will cause concerns for employees and their families, as well as the wider community in East Cleveland.
“We have today begun a redundancy consultation exercise with the recognised trade unions. During that process we will examine how we can achieve the changes needed to ensure the company’s future with the least impact on staff.
“No decisions will be finalised until the consultation with the trade unions has been completed.”
Mr Smith told the Gazette that issues had become apparent over recent months.
He said: “In recent months we encountered geological problems which have affected previously high-yielding areas of the mine. In addition, our exploration programme, validated by independent consultants, confirmed further geological difficulties, which means that we have only a very limited level of economically feasible potash reserves.
“The reality of our potash reserves running out by 2018 means that we must develop a new business strategy if we are to continue mining at Boulby.”
The announcement about Boulby Potash comes amid reported financial concerns. It is overdue on filing accounts for 2014, which were due by the end of this September.
In 2013, the firm recorded losses of £190m after a slump in global potash values forced the firm to slash the value of one of its businesses.
The company warned at that stage that potash prices were not likely to rise in the near future, which would lead to lower profits.