Potash mining in the North York Moors could continue for the next 40 years - irrelevant of whether permission is granted for a new billion pound mine on the outskirts of Scarborough.
Owners of Boulby Mine have announced they are to enter into discussions with the North York Moors National Park Authorty to extend its current planning permission for mining, due to expire in 2023, for a further four decades.
The moves come as the firm’s parent company ICL (Israel Chemicals Ltd) reveals development plans which will see an investment of around £300 million pumped into mine over the next five years.
Plans include the installation of new underground equipment, as well as updating the surface plant and Teesport.
One of the first steps will involve a £16 million programme this summer to replace the Rock Shaft Head Tower at Boulby which will increase its production potential from 4.3 million tonnes to 5.3 million.
The company expects that its workforce, which includes many employees from the Scarborough and Whitby area, will increase by more than 120 to a total of around 1068 by the end of this year, rising to around 1221 by the end of 2015.
Cleveland Potash general manager Phil Baines said: “Cleveland Potash has been East Cleveland’s biggest business and biggest employer for many years and this announcement makes clear we will be here for many years to come.
“We estimate that we have access to at least a billion tonnes of polyhalite which is a lower grade source of potash. As yet there does not appear to be an economically viable route to process the raw material into other chemical products, although we are continuing research work.
“We are working with a number of universities to research best practice and techniques. In partnership with Edinburgh University and the American and European space organisations NASA and ESA, we are also facilitating the world’s first investigation into how astrobiology and space technologies can be used to enhance mineral extraction and mining safety.”
The news comes as the North York Moors planning authority deliberates an application to build a a new billion potash mine near Sneaton.
The application, submitted by York Potash, is due to be determined in June.