A MAJOR mining project which could create up to 5,000 jobs has received a boost after the firm behind the plans is set to be granted an offshore licence to extract a mineral which makes super-fertiliser potash from underneath the North Sea bed.

York Potash, the company which wants to build a concealed polyhalite mine south of Whitby after discovering what is thought to be the world’s largest and purest seam below the North York Moor National Park, has been notified the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) has positively determined its application.

Sirius Minerals, the international mining conglomerate which owns York Potash, announced the news to the market this morning, saying the step, which allows the firm to extract minerals from a 525km sq area under the sea, represented one of the project’s four “key approvals”.

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The company expects to receive written confirmation of the decision from the MMO, which is the Government body which regulates the seas around England.

The news comes as the firm announced plans for its onshore mine at Sneaton, south of Whitby, North Yorkshire, were being finalised and were expected to be submitted to the North York Moor National Park Authority for approval by the end of the month.

Although the decision is being seen as a major step forward for the project, the firm still has several hurdles to overcome before the mine can go ahead.

The company will only be able to extract potash from under the seabed if it receives planning permission for the new onshore mine and associated infrastructure, at its proposed site at farm and forestry block south of Sneaton village.

The formal public consultation period for the company’s proposed underground pipeline transport system comes to an end on tomorrow (January 11) and feedback received will be collated as part of a separate planning application which is expected to be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate during February 2013.

Chris Fraser, managing director and chief executive of Sirius said: "The issue of the licence by the MMO is a significant achievement as the offshore area represents the largest component of the mineral rights within the York Potash Project. This is one of the key approvals for the project and we look forward to securing the remaining approvals as quickly as possible.

“This is a step forward for the project as we continue to pull together our detailed planning applications for the mine and pipeline. We are grateful for the levels of support shown during our consultations and we remain focussed on maximising the many benefits that this project can bring for the local community.”