Onwards and downwards for minerals mine

MINING on the coast around Robin Hood’s Bay has taken a step closer to becoming a reality with a major company announcing they are ready to begin the next stage of their exploratory operations.

Sirius Minerals plans to extract agricultural potash, a powdery salt used in fertilizers, from a 600 kilometre squared deposit located under the coast between Whitby and Scarborough.

Any mining could continue for around 50 years and could inject billions of pounds into the local economy.

Chris Fraser, Sirius Minerals managing director, said: “There’s no other potash in the UK and it only comes ashore from around Scarborough”

“We want people made aware of what we are doing so if a rig pops up people know what’s happening.

“We are telling people who we are, what we are trying to do.

“Drilling has not started yet and we will be putting in a number of applications in the coming months or so for temporary drilling sites.”

Each temporary site will be in place for around eight weeks, with each hole in the ground being no larger than a dustbin lid.

This next stage of the project is intended to fill in the gaps in the current geological map so the company knows exactly where the mineral can be found.

It is expected to run until around Christmas and when completed the company will decide whether they would like to start drilling on a large scale.

Mr Fraser added: “We are working as best we can with the planning authority and council so they will know what we are doing before they address any formal applications.

“They have been very open in the talks we have had with them so far and we will also talk to the National Park and will be writing to each parish before announcing the drill sites.

“The quickest we could actually get to putting in a full planning application would be 18 months, possibly more.”

The area around Robin Hood’s Bay has long been known to house large deposits of potash, and Sirius Minerals have already put in a large amount of work simply to identify where exactly the mineral can be found, and who owns it.

Mr Fraser said discussions with landowners have been going on for some time and were vital before work could progress: “We started identifying who were the main mineral rights owners, which took the best part of a year.

“Who owns the surface doesn’t necessarily mean the person owns the minerals.

“We lease the rights to extract the minerals rather than buy them, otherwise people can come in and break them up.

“If we don’t have a critical mass we don’t have a project.”

In January Sirius announced their proposals for the mine which it is estimated will create up to 5,000 jobs both directly and indirectly, with 1,500 jobs created during the development and construction phase and then 1,000 people operating the mine.

Specialist drilling contractors and special ecological and environmental teams will be locally sourced, with the main drilling contracted out to one of four companies, two of which are UK-based.

Ecological studies will need to be carried out before the project proceeds, but Mr Fraser said the work should have very little environmental impact: “That bit of work will be no different from what has gone on already.

“You take the top soil off, you lay a gravel bed like a car park, you do the drilling and then when you are done you reseal the hole and relay the soil.

“Underground they are fully coated in concrete so nothing can get into the soil.”

The UK is currently only served by the Boulby Mine, operated by Cleveland Potash Limited.

Sirius Minerals recently acquired York Potash as part of their intention to move into the region and also has other projects in Australia and the USA.