APPLICATIONS have been submitted to start drilling work as part of plans to build a potash mine near Scarborough.
The company behind the scheme, Sirius Minerals, has submitted a planning application to the North York Moors National Park Authority for two temporary drilling sites.
The sites are located in agricultural fields to the south of Ugglebarnby and Hawsker, near Whitby.
Sirius says the drilling is expected to last for around five weeks, and the sites will be restored to their original condition once complete.
The firm states the drilling is vital to the project as it will extract sample cores of the mineral underground, and confirm further details about the potash in the area, which is needed for scheme to develop.
Up to ten applications in total will be made for test drilling.
Once all the drilling is completed Sirius then plans to study the results alongside geological and seismic studies in a move to determine where the mine head will be placed.
The mine itself will be the first to be built in the UK for 40 years, and is expected to create 5,000 jobs both directly and indirectly, with 1,500 jobs alone created during the development and construction phase and 1,000 operating the mine.
Plans for the mine were unveiled in January when 600sq km of mining rights between Scarborough and Whitby were sold by York Potash to Sirius Mineral.
Sirius, which has moved to an office on the Dawnay Estate business park at Wykeham to be close to the project, has since increased its mining rights to 621sq km.
Bosses say they expect drilling work to be completed by the end of the year, and the first plans for the actual mine could be submitted within 18 months to two years.
Sirius chief executive Chris Fraser said the results from the drilling will investigated alongside geological data recorded in previous oil and gas drilling in the area, and also information collected in the 1960s when three potash projects were considered on the Yorkshire Coast, with only Boulby Mine actually being built.
He said: “This data will show us where the best, and safest place is to build the mine. It will also show that there is actually potash down there.
“There will be a general level of excitement when the first test drilling in completed and we pull the first piece of potash out of the ground.”
Sirius, which also has projects in Australia and the USA, believes the proposed mine has the potential to unearth billions of pounds worth of potash.
If the project goes ahead Sirius estimates agricultural potash, which is a powdery salt used in fertilizers, could be extracted from the new mine for the next 50 years.
The UK is currently only served by the Boulby Mine, which is also in North Yorkshire and is operated by Cleveland Potash Limited.