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Mining in the park

Sirius Minerals, the London-listed fertiliser group, has begun work to extract potash from beneath the North York Moors National Park in England

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The Woodsmith Mine, located south of Whitby, is due to open in 2021, with production initially of 10 Mtpa, capacity of 13 Mtpa by 2024, and 20 Mtpa by 2026. In May, Sirius started to dig the £2.4B mine, which will exploit the world’s largest deposit of polyhalite, a type of potash, for the next 50 years and beyond.


Polyhalite is a relatively new entrant to the fertiliser market, and is a multi-nutrient product considered superior to traditional potash. A blend of potassium, magnesium, sulphur and calcium, polyhalite will be processed as a product,
POLY4, for export to farmers globally, to improve crops and to help feed the world’s growing population. Sirius has secured customer commitments for 8.1 Mtpa of the polyhalite product.

The project will be constructed largely beneath the national park. Surface buildings will be limited to a minimum and will be screened by the existing woodland, together with new landscaping. Sirius will dig two mile-deep shafts
and a tunnel with a 23-mile underground conveyor belt to transport the polyhalite to Teesside. A materials handling installation at the Wilton International site at Teesside will have storage and granulation facilities.


The processed ore will be taken from Wilton by a 3.5 km overland conveyor to a new export quay at Bran Sands on the River Tees. The quay will be 294mlong and able to handle Panamax bulkers of up to 85,000 dwt, with a 5,000
tph shiploader and dredged approach channels. A second berth and shiploader will be installed to enable production to increase to 20 Mtpa, which would generate projected annual exports of £2.5B.

Sirius has costed the development of the materials handling and port facilities at US$229M. The group has raised US$1.2B (£1B) via an equity issue, a bond, and an equity and royalty deal with Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart’s
Hancock Prospecting.


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