York Potash/Sirius Minerals Polyhalite Mine
Sirius Minerals polyhalite mine project
In January 2011 York Potash (a subsidiary of Sirius Minerals Plc) contacted the North York Moors National Park Authority to express an interest in developing a new mine within the National Park. The project was set up to extract mineral from two deep seams of polyhalite (a form of potash) which lie beneath the National Park and extend eastward underneath the North Sea.
The company submitted a planning application for the development of a new deep mine on a site at Dove's Nest Farm/Haxby Plantation, Sneaton to the south west of Whitby in February 2013. The proposal was for the mineral to be taken from the mine head site in suspension for processing on Teesside via an underground pipeline. The 2013 planning application was withdrawn by the company in January 2014. New proposals were submitted in October 2014 which included:
- Mine head at Dove’s Nest Farm, and extraction of polyhalite from a large area beneath the east of the National Park (determined by the North York Moors National Park Authority – application reference NYM/2014/0676/MEIA);
- Mineral transport system comprising a series of linked conveyors within a 37 kilometre tunnel at an average depth of 250 metres, with 3 intermediate shaft sites at Lady Cross Plantation, Lockwood Beck and Tocketts Lythe, to move the extracted mineral from the mine to Teesside (determined by the North York Moors National Park Authority and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council);
- Materials Handling Facility at Wilton, Teesside (determined by Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council); Harbour facility at Bran Sands, Teesside (determined by the Planning Inspectorate under the National Strategic Infrastructure arrangements);
- Extraction of evaporate minerals including polyhalite and potash from beneath the sea bed (licence application determined by the Marine Management Organisation).
The National Park is afforded the highest level of landscape protection and central government policy, referred to as the ‘Major Development Test’, applies to proposals for large developments such as the proposed mine and mineral transport system. The Major Development Test states that planning permission for such developments should be refused except in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of the need for the development and the cost of and scope for developing elsewhere. There should also be an assessment of any detrimental effects on the environment and the extent to which they could be mitigated.
Consideration of the application by the North York Moors National Park Authority involved an objective and rigorous assessment of the proposals in the context of local plan policies and government policy set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. The conclusions of the assessment were set out in a comprehensive report of the Director of Planning. Members considered the report and, in reaching a decision on the application, took account of the environmental impacts of the development as well as the large scale potential economic benefits at national, regional and local level. The Members’ decision concluded that the circumstances were exceptional and that it was in the public interest for the proposals to be approved. Planning permission was granted in October 2015 for the mine head site and other associated elements of the development that would be located in the National Park. The main surface mine head site in the National Park is now known as Woodsmith Mine.
The permission is subject to 95 planning conditions and related legal agreements setting out a range of requirements for additional mitigation and environmental compensation measures. Referring to the decision to grant permission, Andy Wilson, Chief Executive of the North York Moors National Park said;
"Today's decision is the culmination of hard work, of thorough examination and in-depth discussions of the largest planning application this National Park, and indeed any English National Park, has had to consider. I appreciate that there will be many disappointed by today's decision but Members felt that the long term benefits for the local, regional and national economy were transformational. This truly exceptional nature plus the measures proposed by the company to mitigate harm and deliver widespread environmental benefits to the Park over a long period of time tipped the balance in favour of approval."
The Director of Planning's report on the application, and related documents, can be viewed using the links below:
The planning permission decision notice can be viewed here.
Other documents relating to the 2014 planning application can be viewed through our Planning Explorer Page by searching using the reference number NYM/2014/0676/MEIA.
Progress Update (August 2017)
Following the October 2015 decision, further planning work has taken place to allow development at the Woodsmith Mine site to commence. This has included agreeing additional detailed information required to be submitted under the terms of the planning conditions included in the 2015 planning permission, as well as ensuring that appropriate financial security is in place for off-site mitigation and compensation measures and for the restoration of the site. This initial process has been concluded and the development formally commenced on 4 May 2017. Work has also commenced at one of the three intermediate shaft sites, in a location adjacent to the National Park near Lockwood Beck reservoir.
The process of considering and agreeing further detailed planning information, required by the planning permission relating to the mine, is expected to continue over the coming months, reflecting the different main phases of construction and refinements to the detailed design of the scheme during the early stages of the project.
The Authority has appointed two new staff members to ensure the efficient delivery of the substantial package of environmental/social/economic mitigation and compensation measures set out in the planning application, approved conditions and S106 Agreement. Briony Fox (Director of Polyhalite Resources) joined the Authority in April 2017 to lead on the delivery of the environmental and economic measures in the S106 and Rob Smith (Senior Minerals Planner) joined the Authority in May 2017 to lead on the planning regulation of this project. They are both based at the North York Moors National Park Authority Headquarters in Helmsley.
A community Liaison Group Forum has also been set up by the Sirius Minerals to help communicate and discuss issues associated with the project. Meetings are open to the public. See agendas and minutes of the meetings here.
In July 2017 an application was submitted for minor material amendments to the existing planning permission for the development at the Woodsmith Mine. This application is currently under consideration, with a decision expected in the Autumn. In summary, the amendments proposed include revisions to the: design of foreshafts and shaft construction methodology; building layout and shaft access arrangements; construction and operational shaft platform levels; location and layout of surface water attenuation ponds; groundwater management arrangements and amendments to internal access road arrangements. Further details about the application can be viewed here by searching using reference number NYM/2017/0505/MEIA.
Section 106 legal agreements
The 2014 planning application included proposals for various legal obligations which would help to mitigate and compensate for the harmful effects of the development, particularly those experienced during the five year construction period. The agreement that has been reached with the National Park Authority includes an annual landscape and ecology contribution and funding towards tourism promotion. The agreement also includes funding for a major woodland planting programme to address the Authority’s requirements for carbon offsetting, as well as security arrangements to ensure that funds would be available to restore the development sites at any point during construction or operation and to secure mitigation and compensation payments for a 10 year period. Further Section 106 legal agreements between the developer and North Yorkshire County Council and Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council are in place to secure off-site highway improvements, additional services on the Esk Valley rail line and measures to promote Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects in schools and opportunities for local employment. Work is now taking place towards delivering the requirements of the legal agreements and further updates on progress will be provided on this page.
The three legal agreements can be viewed here:
How to find further information
In addition to the information provided through this page, further details can be obtained by contacting:
Briony Fox, Director of Polyhalite Resources (B.Fox@northyorkmooors.org.uk); or,
Rob Smith, Senior Minerals Planner (Rob.Smith@northyorkmoors.org.uk)
or call 01439 772700.
Information about the project can also be obtained from Sirius Minerals’ website.
Sirius Minerals have set up a 24 hour telephone community helpline for enquiries or concerns about the project. The number is 0845 5438964.