UP to 5,000 jobs could be created in Whitby and district after plans were revealed to open the first UK Potash mine in 40 years.
Mineral rights between Whitby and Scarborough were sold on Sunday to Sirius Minerals, which specialises in potash exploration and development and has three potash projects already in Australia and the USA.
The company has announced it now plans to open a new mine on the coast creating thousands of jobs.
It plans to undertake test drilling and seismic surveys in the area following the deal with York Potash which will see it hold mineral rights on 600 sq km on land and on the coast.
A location will then be sought for the mine head to extract the potash, which is a powdery salt used in fertilisers, before the planning application is submitted.
Sirius says exploration work will be carried out to determine the potential for a new potash mine between Whitby and Scarborough, which bosses believe could create 1,500 development and construction jobs and 1,000 operational jobs in the mine, as well as supporting hundreds more in the supply chain.
The project is still in its early stages but if it goes ahead Sirius estimates agricultural potash, which is a powdery salt used in fertilizers, could be extracted from the new mine for the next 50 years.
Chris Fraser, who founded York Potash last year and is now managing director and chief executive of Sirius, said: “Demand for potash is undergoing significant growth.
“Potash is an essential component in the fertilisers that we all rely on for cost effective food production.
“The York Potash project, subject to successful testing, could become a new and strategically important potash mine for the UK.
“This will help the UK to meet its own needs, giving it security of supply and, importantly, creating a project of local, regional and national economic significance.
“This is just one step on a longer journey but we are confident that our vision for a high-quality, modern and efficient potash mine in North Yorkshire can be achieved and would deliver an asset of true national importance.”
Whitby’s MP Robert Goodwill welcomed the news.
He said: “This is absolutely brilliant news as this investment could create one of Scarborough’s largest employers.
“We have been saying there will be private sector jobs that come and replace some of the losses in the state sector and this could see that happening in Scarborough with thousands of jobs.
“This is the best possible news, however we will have to bear in mind the delicate environment in North Yorkshire and take precautions to protect it.”
The UK is currently only served by Boulby Mine operated by Cleveland Potash Limited.
Sirius say subject to successful completion of the exploratory and surveying work, it is anticipated details will be developed for a suitable extraction point and mine head with accompanying infrastructure.
Planning permissions will then be sought with a view to making the York Potash project operational “as soon as is practically possible.”
The project’s proposed exploration area would extend approximately between Scarborough and Whitby across the 600 sq km land allocation.
However no timetable has been set for submission of a planning permission to develop the mine nor for the intended start of mining operations.