A POTASH firm building a fertiliser mine says it remains on track to begin sinking shafts later this year.

Sirius Minerals has made “timely progress” on site preparation in anticipation of work starting on shafts.

Confirmation comes after officials told The Northern Echo back in March how they were hoping to begin drilling mine shafts this summer.

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The company says the mine, which will extract the fertiliser polyhalite, is expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs and support a similar number in the supply chain, with production expected to get underway in late 2021.

According to a second quarter update, revealed today (Thursday, June 29), the business has finished site access and road upgrades around its Woodsmith Mine, with preparation of ground at an intermediate shaft at Lockwood Beck, near Guisborough, east Cleveland, ongoing.

Once the shafts are sufficiently underground, the Echo understands boring will begin to join the excavations together and create a route for Sirius’ mineral transport system, which will take polyhalite from Whitby to a handling, storage and distribution plant at Wilton, near Redcar.

Chris Fraser, managing director and chief executive, said: “It has been a productive first quarter, with timely progress made on site preparation works in advance of shaft sinking in quarter three (of the year).

“The team on site and at our headquarters has grown considerably as we continue with the delivery of the Woodsmith Mine and its associated infrastructure.”

Mr Fraser also confirmed the business has overseen a number of trials on its polyhalite, which is reputed for its potassium, magnesium, sulphur and calcium content that encourages strong crop growth.

Revealing 15 tests were completed in the quarter, he said another 20 are now underway across the UK, Ireland, the US, China, India and Brazil looking at polyhalite’s impact on barley, cabbage, chilli peppers, corn and soybean.

The firm already has a stock of supply agreements in place, including a deal with a US-based firm to annually dispatch 1.5 million tonnes for at least seven years.

Sirius will move its polyhalite underground to Wilton, where it will be stored before being delivered to customers from a new harbour.