A 45-YEAR-old mine saw its biggest change to date yesterday as it switched to become the world’s first polyhalite mine, securing the future of the 500 jobs there.

Boulby Mine in Boulby, east Cleveland, faced uncertainty after reserves of potash began to dwindle – but it has now entirely switched to mining polyhalite, which is currently being mixed with potash from ICL’s mines in the Dead Sea to create a speciality fertiliser.


Raviv Zoller, president and chief executive of Israeli Chemicals Limited (ICL), the parent company of Boulby, visited the mine yesterday to launch the new product – and spoke of how mining would now continue there for "decades to come".

“The world really needs us,” he said. “There are going to be two billion additional people by 2050. I think that all of us here can be very proud that Yorkshire is going to be a significant player in feeding the world population going forward. There is not enough arable land, not enough food unless the fertiliser business becomes much more effective.”

He told The Northern Echo he intended ICL to become world leaders with polyhalite products and hoped to more than double current polyhalite production at Boulby from 450,000 tonnes to one million tonnes by 2020.

ICL announced 230 job losses at Boulby earlier this year as it shifted from potash mining, amid dwindling stocks and plummeting world potash prices. It once employed more than 1,000 people, but Mr Zoller said the current 500-strong workforce were now in sustainable, long-term jobs.

If sales go well after 2020 ICL could look to pump additional investment and possibly extra staff in to ramp production up to three million tonnes, but he said the decision had not been made yet.

“We don’t want to make over-optimistic projections and disappoint everybody, first and foremost ourselves,” he said. The product already sells in 22 countries and it is hoped it will become a high-value export product for ICL.

Boulby manager, Andrew Fulton added: “When we sunk the shaft in 1973 we knew potash stocks were finite.

"We have been mining polyhalite for eight years now and today have launched a blended product. It is a stepping stone for farmers here in the UK which are stepping from one product to another.”

He said Boulby would be looking to revive apprenticeship schemes to bring in local young miners – some of the younger ones are now about 40.

Amanda Skelton, chief executive of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, welcomed the move, saying it was a "high point" and that Boulby would have a bright future after a turbulent few years.