THE PROPOSED potash mine will not be able to operate without an underground pipeline - set to be the only method of transporting the mineral to the rest of the world.
A planning application for the 45km steel pipeline which will run parallel with the A171 is set to be submitted to planning authorities within the next few weeks.
Plans for the minehead itself at Doves Nest farm, Sneaton were submitted to the National Park last month with a decision expected in May.
At a recent meeting, engineer Aaron Haslett outlined the importance of the pipeline in relation to operation of the mine saying “this will be the world’s first polyhalite pipeline but the technology is very well established.”
He added: “The pipeline is a key element of this design. We will do everything to keep it safe. It is imperative and crucial to our business. We have to maintain it for safety reasons of course but if it shuts down, we can’t operate.”
There will be two pipelines, 24 inches wide and sunk at least 1.2 metres below the ground running parallel to the A171 via Scaling dam and the Esk valley about 25 metres from the road.
The mined potash will be pumped into the first pipe at a rate of 130 times atmospheric pressure while being crushed through a steel tumbler and mixed with brine to separate the salt from the potash.
At the end of the line, at a processing plant in Teesside, the potash and salt are filtered. The potash is sold and transported around the globe while the brine solution is sent back up the second pipeline back to the minehead ready for the next batch.
Fibre optic cables will run inside the pipeline trenches to monitor operations between Teesside and the minehead and a helicopter will also be deployed to give a bird’s eye view of what is happening.
When asked at the meeting how the route had been drawn up, Mr Haslett told the meeting the route started as the crow flies but factors such as flood risks, archeological sites, wooded areas and geological features such as rocks had to be taken into account and the route deviated as necessary.
It is expected the pipeline will be ready for use by 2016 and is designed for use for 30 years.
Some members of the public had concerns that if the pipeline failed material would have to be transported by road leading to heavy goods vehicles travelling through small villages and on country roads.
Mr Haslett said: “That is not something I can give a definitive answer on but it is not something that is being considered as part of our business case.”
l See page 14 for more on the potash planning proposals.