Miners shell out for Doves Nest Farm

The proposed site of the Potash mine near Sneatonthorpe''w123606c
The proposed site of the Potash mine near Sneatonthorpe''w123606c

THE director of Sirius Minerals has said that the proposed mine site near Sneatonthorpe is their “best and only” option.

“We don’t see us as a threat to Boulby because it’s a world project, so we don’t see us in competition,” said a jet-lagged Chris Fraser, fresh off a plane from meeting potential customers in China and India.

The managing director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, he took the time to talk to the Gazette at the mine’s prospective site on Monday, adding that the global need for this valuable resource means Cleveland Potash and the new mine can work side by side.

Hoping that this week’s announcement would allay many residents’ fears, he said: “The two biggest questions we have been asked are ‘where is it’ and ‘what does it look like’. So this allows us to take our dialogue to the higher level.

“We looked at all sorts of locations inside and outside the national park and we genuinely believe that this area is the best.”

Should planning permission be granted next year, Doves Nest Farm and the adjoining Haxby Plantation will become the epicentre of a new £1.7bn potash mine, described as ‘nationally significant’ by the developers.

Located beside the B1416 road, the 100-hectare site is currently hidden on almost all sides by mature woodland.

Only by looking northwards is there a narrow window where Hawsker and clifftop caravan sites can be seen.

Yet the site is only 2.5 miles from Whitby, where the company has pledged to recruit the majority of the 700 employees who will work directly at the mine.

Gareth Edmunds, spokesperson for Sirius Minerals, said: “We will always advertise locally for jobs first.

“If there’s people here with a willingness to work, with the right attitude, there’s a job here for you.”

At full capacity the project will employ 1,000 people, with 300 located either at the processing plant on Teesside or at the administrative offices near Scarborough.

When the mine first opens, after a construction period of around two years, a much-smaller workforce of less than 200 will draw around 5 million tonnes of polyhalite annually.

Over a 10-year period this will be “ramped up” so eventually 700 employees, working in shift patterns of around 150 people, will mine 14.2 million tonnes of raw material.

Of these employees, only 150 will be totally unskilled, so the remainder will be highly qualified, and this means that for the mine to be a success, the local authority must be prepared to accommodate the demands of an affluent workforce.

Mr Fraser said: “Because we are getting highly-skilled people, they’re going to want to live in nice houses. But at the moment our guys are saying that the quality available in the rental market at the moment is poor.

“But ever since we first briefed Scarborough Borough Council, they’ve been thinking and planning around things like housing and critical service - what they need to do and how they can help.”

With a planning application due to be submitted before the end of the year, the company has no alternatives to the Doves Nest Farm proposal, yet Mr Fraser is confident that the mine will go ahead.

Questions had been asked about how a company currently valued at £220m could raise the almost £2 billion required to construct the mine, but the managing director has made assurances that the required funds will be found.

“It will be financed,” he said. “We have probably the most finance-raising expertise of any company in the world.

“The money will come from a number of sources and we have a long-stated strategy of alligning ourselves with customers.”

Substantial loans will also be arranged with banks and bond markets.