Environmental concern delays potash decision

Tristan Pottas at a temporary drill site
Tristan Pottas at a temporary drill site

Unanswered questions have led to the delay of a planning decision on the proposed 
potash mine near Sneaton.

On Thursday afternoon the North York Moors National Park’s planning committee chose to allow Sirius Minerals extra time to gather more information to support its application and seek to alleviate environmental concerns.

The last-minute request to defer the planning decision was not welcomed positively by the planning committee. Chris France, director of planning at the National Park, said he has grown frustrated by Sirius’ “eleventh hour approach”. He added: “They have continued to give us new information on a weekly basis. The delay will incur additional costs and disruption to the authority, but the members reluctantly agreed to the proposals. ”

While no new date for a decision has been put forward by Sirius yet, the deferral will give members time to consider the additional information.

The deadline, set by Sirius themselves, had already been shifted from July 2 to July 29. Yesterday, an announcement was due on whether the park would be recommending approval or refusal of the application, but with the extension this has now also be delayed.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, said: “While a deferral will be frustrating to the thousands of supporters of the project, we must ensure the National Park is in a position to make a robust decision on the application and that all the key statutory agencies are comfortable with the extensive environmental information and commitments that we have provided. Addressing these issues will further strengthen the application and make for a better project.”

A report commissioned by the National Park raised serious concerns about the York Potash proposals for a mine at Doves Nest Farm, in relation to potential environmental impact. The report was compiled by AMEC, a consultancy service with over 160 years’ experience and as a result, the stock market reacted negatively, with share prices dropping around 20 per cent this week. Mr France said: “The bottom line is the EIA shows that in our consultants view there are likely to be a much greater range of environmental impacts than York Potash are stating.”

To counter the report’s executive summary Sirius issued a response, which said the company disagreed with large sections of AMEC’s findings, saying it contained a number of errors.