Sirius Minerals' Polyhalite Project makes 'considerable progress' as first German-built tunnel boring machine is unveiled

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Sirius Minerals, the company behind the multi-billion pound North Yorkshire Polyhalite Project, has revealed it made ‘considerable progress’ in terms of construction.

In its latest quarterly progress update, published today, Sirius announced they remain on track to achieve first polyhalite and commercial production on time and in line with the cost schedule announced in September last year.

At the Woodsmith Mine, near Whitby, the excavation of the service shaft has been completed to a depth of 44m. Its final depth of 45m is expected to be reached this month.

Launched in October 2018, the vertical sinking machine at the site is drilling access to the 23-mile tunnel designed to transport 20 million tonnes of polyhalite ore a year to Teesside. This has been sunk to a depth of 63m and despite some initial commissioning issues, Sirius say sinking activities are proceeding smoothly.

Once reached its destination through the underground tunnel, the multi-nutrient fertiliser will be granulated and exported overseas from a specific materials handling facility in Wilton. At this site, tunnelling activities have begun and 13m of tunnel have already been dug through conventional excavation techniques.

The company says that approximately 125m of drive 1 are expected to be completed before using the first of the 1,800-tonne tunnel boring machines soon to be shipped over from Germany.

The TBM (Tunnel Boring Machine), which will be operating at 250m below the ground to create the mineral transportation tunnel, will be launched once competent Redcar mudstone has been reached.

Preparatory works for shaft sinking at Lockwood Beck are also said to be well-advanced with initial excavation activities due to start in the first quarter of 2019.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius said: “2018 was a year of significant progress for the Company.

“Completion of procurement to support the stage 2 financing and the signing of an additional 4.8 Mtpa of take-or-pay supply agreements, have been substantial achievements.

“Considerable progress has been made across all our construction sites and development activities are advancing at pace.

“More than 800 people are now employed on the Project, demonstrating the transformational potential for jobs and growth in the local area.”

Sirius Minerals’ polyhalite Woodsmith Mine is a £3.2bn capital investment project which is expected to generate £100bn for the UK economy over the next 50 years.

Apart from creating 1,000, long-term, skilled jobs, the project is also set to support 1,500 supply chain jobs.