Young people might be forced to leave if Sirius project isn't delivered, Scarborough Council leader warns

Sirius' stand at Engineering Week.
Sirius' stand at Engineering Week.

Young people might be forced to leave the area if Sirius Minerals’ ambitious mining project fails to go ahead.

That’s the view of Scarborough Council leader Cllr Steve Siddons, who this week joined other political and business leaders from across the region in calling for action from the Prime Minister.

The Sirius' HQ in Eastfield.

The Sirius' HQ in Eastfield.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, Cllr Siddons, alongside Cllr Mary Lanigan (Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council), Cllr Carl Les (Leader of North Yorkshire County Council), Ben Houchen (Mayor of the Tees Valley), Henri Murison (Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership), David Kerfoot (Chair of York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership) and Nomi Ahmad (Head of Sembcorp Energy UK), spoke of “opportunities”; “real opportunities” that young people might have to leave the area to secure work if a solution to Sirius’ financial troubles isn’t found.

“It’s already happening and it’s been happening for a long time,” he said. “People have aspirations to do better in life and are having to move away to secure jobs with reasonable salaries because they can’t get them here.

“Schools have been working hard to encourage young people to get into science and innovation, and Engineering Week [currently at the Spa] is part of that, but if we don’t have something like Sirius it’s going to make young people think ‘is it worth me doing that if I’ll have to move away?’”

Despite last month’s failure to deliver its Stage 2 financing plan to fund the next phase of construction at Woodsmith Mine, near Whitby, Sirius has once again placed itself at the heart of Scarborough Science & Engineering Week as one of the event’s headline sponsors.

The company behind North Yorkshire’s £3bn polyhalite project said it is “proud” to support the initiative and “delighted to play a part in helping to increase the number of young people who want a science-related career and equip them with skills that are in great demand”.

Through its education outreach programme, work experience and apprenticeships, Sirius says it has so far worked with more than 100 schools and 20,000 young people, showing its commitment to “raising the skills and aspirations of young people across the project area”.

Peter Wilkinson, chairman of the board of governors for Scarborough UTC, said: “I’ve known some of the directors since they moved to Scarborough and I have tremendous respect for them.

“Their drive and determination is just amazing and I don’t see this project not being completed. I think this is just a hiccup, I really do.”

Sirius is currently going through a six-month strategic review to find an alternative way to fund the project after it failed to raise £400m last month.

To preserve its current cash resources, which are due to run out in March 2020, bosses have had to slow down operations at Woodsmith Mine and let go some staff.

Cllr Siddons, who is campaigning for the Government to intervene, is yet to receive a response to his invite for Boris Johnson to visit Scarborough, an appeal in a separate letter last month.

However, he vows to “stay on the case”, adding that his fight isn’t to “save a private company” but rather for “the impact this particular business will have on the wider local economy”.