WORK on a £2.2billion potash mine in North Yorkshire could be set for early completion thanks to the signing of a new shaft sinking contract.

Sirius Minerals has announced that it has entered into a design and build contract with DMC Mining Services for the construction of the four shafts required for its polyhalite project at Woodsmith Mine near Whitby.

DMC is one of the world’s leading shaft sinking and mining contractors and their methodology opens opportunities to accelerate first polyhalite by up to six months.

Chris Fraser, managing director and CEO of Sirius, said: “Sirius continually seeks opportunities to use innovations and a commercial approach to accelerate development and unlock value.

“DMC has proven, world leading experience using Herrenknecht SBR technology on deep shafts and represents a strong partner, commercially aligned to our success.

“We are confident that they can deliver the North Yorkshire polyhalite project shafts significantly earlier than all previous expectations and we look forward to working with the team.”

Graham Buttenshaw, managing director of DMC, added: “We are excited to be partnering with Sirius on this world-class project and are confident of leveraging our leading technology and experience to accelerate development of the mine and enable Sirius to bring its sustainable multi-nutrient fertilisers to the market earlier than previously planned.”

DMC has been operating for over 35-years and has sunk 23 shafts with one of the lowest incident and accident frequency rates in the industry.

It is a subsidiary of KGHM, a diversified mining company based in Poland with operations in Europe, North and South America.

Once the Woodsmith Mine is operational - scheduled to be in late 2021 - it is expected to create more than 1,000 direct jobs and support a similar number in the supply chain.

When it is up and running, Sirius plans to move the polyhalite - a crop fertiliser - from Yorkshire to Wilton, near Redcar, on an underground transport system.

Construction work at the site had been delayed by some bad winter weather, but bosses stressed last month that the overall project was still on track.