Get Sirius: Can the UK’s biggest mining project be saved? – by Julian Turner (Mining Technology – December 11, 2019)

Sirius Minerals has cancelled a $500m bond sale to finance its polyhalite mine in North Yorkshire, citing economic conditions and uncertainty around Brexit. Can the UK’s biggest mining project be saved? We talk to Humphrey Knight, potash analyst at business intelligence firm CRU.

Could the UK’s most ambitious mining project really be over before production has even begun? Sirius Minerals has spent the past three years drumming up interest in its £4bn Woodsmith project under the North York Moors National Park.

The firm is building two mile-deep shafts to access what it claims is the world’s largest and highest-grade deposit of polyhalite, a naturally occurring mineral containing potassium, magnesium, calcium and sulphur that can be processed into fertiliser.

Sirius is also constructing a 23-mile-long tunnel to house a conveyor belt to transport chipped pieces of rock to a port on Teesside, where it will be crushed and processed into fine granules for farmers to spread on crops. At first, all seemed well. Sirius’ share price hit a 44p high in 2016 after 85,000 retail investors ploughed their savings into the project in the hope it would create 1,000 permanent jobs.

Sirius announced it had entered into talks with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, part of HM Treasury, about providing funding. Polyhalite production from Woodsmith was pencilled in for 2021.

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