Badgers bodge mine design

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BADGERS forced the relocation of a building at the proposed mine site, south of Sneaton, it has emerged.

The role of Britain’s largest carnivore in the billion-pound project came to light as York Potash submitted its long-awaited planning application to the North York Moors National Park’s planning department recently.

Throughout its public consultation period the mining company has highlighted its belief that the mine can operate complementary to the national park and the mine’s design suggests York Potash is prepared to back up its words.

Estimates state efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the mine has already cost the company tens of millions of pounds. The movement of a major structure on the site to accommodate the large badger population is a tangible example of this and a spokesperson for York Potash said: “It’s an example of how, in our extensive environmental work, we are looking for these kinds of things and putting in measures to mitigate the disruption.”

The mine support building, known as the ‘welfare site’ has been designed by a Leeds-based firm of architects and will feature a completely glass wall to provide natural light, but shutters can be closed to reduce light pollution during hours of darkness.

Architects say it is built around the principle of ‘passive design’ and features will include heat from deep underground being piped upwards to warm the building, while rainwater will be used in on-site toilets.

In addition to the large badger sett discovered at the site, ecological studies have identified a huge amount of wildlife inhabiting the area around the site. These include 64 breeding birds species, including rare examples like Tawny Owl, Nuthatch and Cuckoo.

With few surface structures planned, the company hopes these wildlife populations will be sustained, or even increased through the presence of reed beds and other natural habitats.

The minehead surface structures will be more conservative and are designed to hide the industrial processes within and below ground. They will appear similar to traditional farm buildings, such as those which currently occupy the site.

Within these structures, and sunk below the surface, will be two mine shafts extending 1,600m down to the potash seam. The ‘man-riding shaft’ will carry personnel and equipment, while the other will bring raw materials to the surface.

From this central location, the mine is set to expand outwards, covering an area that will eventually measure across 727 square miles.

Full construction at the Doves Nest site is set to take around three years, but the company has admitted that during that period there will be inevitable disruptions relating to visual impact and increased traffic. The planning application statement reads: “However, these are balanced by the investment that is taking place in the local economy, particularly in the tourism ‘closed season’.

The company does not subscribe to the belief that the proposals will have a detrimental impact on the tourist industry of the National Park which is currently in decline, according to the National Park Management Plan. On the contrary, there will a significant number of people who will visit the area for business purposes and who will become aware of the tourism opportunities that are presented in the area.”