Market spooked by Sirius’ bad month

The Doves Nest Farm site near Sneaton ''w133010c
The Doves Nest Farm site near Sneaton ''w133010c

Sliding share prices and failure to meet deadlines has caused some industry experts to wonder if the York Potash project may be floundering.

In the past month Sirius Minerals shares have halved, from almost 30p each to less than 14p on Wednesday morning.

With the company still hoping to raise capital to fund its £1bn state-of-the-art potash mine at Doves Nest Farm near Sneatonthorpe, this slump in shares must make grim reading for Sirius chief executive officer Chris Fraser.

However, Mr Fraser is confident the reaction of the market is due to a spooking over a predicted fall in global potash prices, not a lack of confidence in the project itself. He explained the York Potash Project has a “robust” business model which underpins its financing and development into a long-term supplier, adding: “The volatility caused in the potash market by this speculation perfectly demonstrates the dangers of the supply of such an important mineral being concentrated among a small number of producers and re-emphasises the need for new, low-cost, long-life projects, operating outside the existing restricted market.”

It has been a tough month for Sirius Minerals following the publication of an AMEC report that highlighted perceived failings in the company’s application to the North York Moors Planning Authority.

For the third time, the company then asked for an extension to the July 29 planning determination date which it had set, and as yet no new timetable has been confirmed, leaving both the company and the planning authority in limbo.

This stuttering was further compounded by the announcement that the Russian mining company Uralkali was set to pull out of a joint venture with the Belarus-based producers Belaruskali.

Uralkali’s chief executive Vladislav Baumgertner predicted the move will see global potash prices fall from around £263 a tonne to £197, a huge decrease on potash’s peak trading price of £657 per tonne.

Some analysts believe this development will result in a more robust global potash industry, with smaller producers able to grab a share of the market, but the stock exchange’s uncertainty will have caused concern for Sirius Minerals.