[U.K. potash mine] Sirius reaps the benefits of charming the locals – by Kate Burgess (Financial Times – July 5, 2015)


Miner won planning permission to extract 13m tonnes a year of potash from the North York Moors

The comic potential in mineral fertiliser was exploited to the full by satirist Sacha Baron Cohen when his creation, Borat the Kazhak, boasted “other countries have inferior potassium” in a spoof national anthem. But his claim is one that Britons might legitimately dispute now as Aim-quoted Sirius Minerals prepares to mine a Yorkshire deposit of potassium-rich salts described as the richest in the world.

Last week, Sirius Minerals won planning permission to extract 13m tonnes a year of white pellets of so-called polyhalite from under the North York Moors national park. The planning victory was no mean feat. Last month, just across the Pennines, Lancashire locals saw off a bid by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla to begin fracking in the area, because they were worried about the effects on local homes and health.

In contrast, Yorkshire’s local residents cheered Chris Fraser, Sirius’ forceful founder and chief executive, as he left the council meeting at Sneaton Castle in Whitby, pictured. The talk in the Venerable Bede hall was all about Sirius creating a thousand jobs and pumping millions into the local economy for the next century.

It was the culmination of a canny three-year campaign by Mr Fraser to woo the region’s farmers and landowners. Not only has Sirius promised residents royalties and set up a foundation to fund local causes, but Mr Fraser has persuaded 5,000 local residents to buy shares in the junior market company.

“I decided five years ago to give the community the opportunity to become owners and be involved,” says Mr Fraser. The ex-banker says too many miners alienate communities by appearing as big corporate bureaucracies interested only in City investors.

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