Controversial UK potash project nears decision day – by Rod Nickel (Reuters U.S. – May 20, 2015)

NEW YORK – Sirius Minerals PLC, the British company behind a controversial proposed potash mine, said it hopes to win a key regulatory approval this summer that could lead to production within four years.

Sirius aims to be the biggest producer of granulated polyhalite, which contains multiple crop nutrients such as potash, sulfur and calcium.

The company is also awaiting results of a feasibility study this summer before proceeding with the mine in England’s North York Moors National Park.

Polyhalite, unlike conventional muriate of potash (MOP), contains little chloride that is harmful to fruit crops. The company expects to sell it at a huge premium over MOP, of which there is excess global mining capacity.

“We’ve got a product that is better for the environment and better for food productivity,” said Chief Executive Chris Fraser on Wednesday on the sidelines of a BMO investor conference in New York.

There is no reason to delay the project just because there is a surplus of the conventional potash form, he said.

Sirius’ London shares have gained 83 percent this year as of Monday’s close. A national park authority committee will consider on June 30 Sirius’ application for the York Potash mine, which could produce 13 million tonnes annually, and its transportation system.

Sirius would move ore underground by conveyor 36 kilometers (22 miles) to port, and build headframes below surface to minimize the $3-billion mine’s impact on the park’s moors and forest.

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