A MINING company which plans to dig up a natural crop fertiliser from the North York Moors could snap up a long-standing potash mine just a few miles down the road.

Sirius Minerals is understood to be in talks with Israeli Chemicals Ltd (ICL), the owner of the Boulby potash mine in east Cleveland, about a potential sale of the plant.

Despite a number of job cuts in recent years, ICL remains east Cleveland’s biggest employer with 750 staff.

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Sirius overcame a number of planning hurdles to gain permission to extract the fertiliser polyhalite from Sneaton, near Whitby, at a development known as the Woodsmith mine, and expects to create up to a thousand direct jobs when production begins in late 2021.

ICL is turning away from traditional potash mining, reserves of which are declining, in order to concentrate its operations on mining polyhalite from under the North Sea, which it markets as polysulphate.

The synergies don’t end there with Sirius planning to ship its polyhalite to Wilton, near Redcar, where it will be stored before being shipped from a new harbour on the River Tees.

ICL already has a portside operation at Tees Dock and its own railway transporting goods in and out of Boulby.

Reports from Israel suggest ICL has held discussions with Sirius to sell its British mining operations for a price that could reach between $150m and $200m.

Israeli news website haaretz.com said a delegation of executives from Sirius was in Israel last week to advance the talks.

Polyhalite, a natural fertiliser, is said to aid crop growth due to its potassium, magnesium, sulphur and calcium nutrients.

ICL hopes to extract and handle a million tonnes a year of it by 2019. Sirius, meanwhile, said earlier this month that it was talking to potential customers around the world after confirming its plans remained on time and on budget.

Polyhalite generates bigger cash revenues than potash because it doesn’t require as much processing and uses the same mining and logistic facilities.

ICL, which has interests in Israel, Hong Kong, China and Japan is said to be attempting to sell off its non-core operations in order to reduce the group’s debt.

A spokesman said: “The company is exploring options for co-operation, purchase or sale of companies and assets. When any of these options becomes concrete, the company will report it as required by law.”

A spokesman for Sirius said: “We do not comment on market rumours. We have commercial discussions with multiple partners at all times – we only ever comment on them if they reach a position that requires them to be disclosed to the stock market, in line with our obligations."

Former Middlesbrough South and east Cleveland MP Tom Blenkinsop said: “The two joining forces in some way, shape or form was always something we felt would be on the cards.

“This sounds pretty feasible and if it keeps the jobs for the guys at the site going forward, I’d welcome it and it’d be good for the local economy as it keeps a lot of families on good incomes.

“It’s a good conversation to be having if it provides more assurances for the existing site and workforce.

“Sirius have got some serious capital behind them, they have got people who know a lot about the mining industry, and furthermore it might bring more jobs to the Teesport area in terms of the distribution operation.”