Potash drilling is given go-ahead

THE first steps towards building a multi-million potash mine near Scarborough have been taken after planning applications for two temporary drilling sites were approved.

Sirius Minerals, the company behind the scheme, was given the go-ahead by the North York Moors National Park Authority’s planning committee yesterday for a temporary exploratory potash borehole and associated plant, a drilling rig up to 33m high, at Raw Pasture Bank, Hawsker, near Whitby, and at Pasture Field Lane, Howlett Hall, Ugglebarnby.

The temporary drilling is required to extract sample cores of the mineral underground and confirm further details about the potash in the area before any detailed proposals for the wider project can be developed.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “We are extremely pleased to be moving forward and will keep local people informed during the drilling work.

“The project is of national importance and if delivered in the right way could be a real benefit to the local area. We will work as quickly as we can to complete this phase and draw up detailed proposals for the project.”

Up to 10 applications are expected in total and will be considered by the North York Moors National Park Authority.

Once all the drilling is completed Sirius then plans to study the results alongside geological and seismic studies to determine where the mine head will be placed.

The mine 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 revealed in January when 600sq km of mining rights between Scarborough and Whitby were sold to Sirius by York Potash.

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 mine could be submitted within 18 months to two years.

Site drilling is expected to last for five weeks with the sites being restored to their original condition after completion.

Sirius, which also has projects in Autralia 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.

Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill has backed the plans.

Speaking to the Evening News earlier this year, he added: “I’m certainly welcoming this. What we need to do is make sure the environmental impact from what they are intending to do is addressed.

“The fact is, the potash is under the North York Moors. Other industries, especially tourism, rely heavily on the picturesque nature of this environment.”