UK approves $2.9bn mining scheme with very long tunnel for Yorkshire

An ambitious UK mining scheme that will see millions of tonnes of polyhalite ore dug up in Whitby and transported by conveyor underground through a 37-km-long tunnel to Teesside has received government approval.

Shares in Sirius Minerals, a UK-based fertiliser maker, rose on the news that its $2.9bn project received a Development Consent Order for the harbour facilities at Teesside, which includes a new berth.

Sirius is now putting the scheme’s financing in place.

A joint venture between UK construction group Murphy and German contractor Hochtief was chosen last month as preferred bidder to design and excavate the 4-m-diameter, 36.5km-long tunnel from the mines located deep under the quiet seaside town of Whitby to the new berth at Teesside.

At first, 10 million tonnes of the ore per year will be mined, processed and sent through the tunnel, which will be built at an average depth of 250m, for shipping. Sirius says full capacity is 20 million tonnes.

Layout of the mine and tunnels (Sirius)

It is expected that five hard-rock tunnel-boring machines will be deployed to dig the tunnel.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Sirius chief executive Chris Fraser said: "We’re delighted to have secured this final approval for the Project and would like to thank everyone who has contributed towards the positive determinations of all of the planning applications and the DCO application.

"Our team is currently actively engaged in the financing phase of the Project and I look forward to providing further updates in due course. We are closer than ever to delivering this world-class project."

Last month, Sirius said it had reduced the capital cost of the project by 18%, from $3.6bn to $2.9bn. The first-phase capital investment was cut by a third to $1.1bn.

Top image: The North Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby is about to get a new neighbour (J3Mrs/Wikipedia)

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