A MINING project in North Yorkshire is set to increase its workforce in the coming months.

Anglo American, which took over the Sirius Minerals polyhalite mine on the North Yorkshire coast in March, said it was now employing almost 1,000 people on the project, up from about 600 in May.

The company said it expects to grow its workforce on the Woodsmith project further in the coming months.

Releasing its interim results for 2020 yesterday, the company said the impact of Covid-19 on the project had been "limited" and it had implemented strict temperature monitoring, social distancing and hygiene measures to keep work going.

Gareth Edmunds, external affairs director for Anglo American’s crop nutrients business Woodsmith Project, said: "After a brief pause at the beginning of the outbreak, we’ve been able to continue construction under new. enhanced operating procedures based on and in some areas exceeding government guidelines.

“We remain vigilant of the risk and will continue to do all we can do keep everyone safe.

"It is important for the area that this project gets built and that we continue to deliver the jobs and opportunities for local businesses that are needed now more than ever.”

Anglo American is building two one-mile deep mineshafts near Whitby to access a 2.3 billion tonne deposit of the mineral polyhalite, which will be sold around the world as a natural fertiliser.

The underground mine will be connected to a 23 mile long tunnel, which will transport the ore to Teesside for processing and shipping.

The tunnelling operation has reached 4.5 miles so far.

At the mine site, a giant mineshaft construction machine is currently being assembled and is expected to start excavating later this year.

It will be only the third time that the state of the art ‘Shaft Boring Roadheader’ has been used anywhere in the world, to dig what will be the deepest mineshafts in Europe.

Anglo American expects to invest about £235m in each of 2020 and 2021 on the ongoing development of the project, including building the mineshafts and the first section of the tunnel from Teesside.

After that, the next stage will be to complete the mine, tunnel, processing and shipping facilities in order to bring the mine into production.

The project's charitable arm, the Sirius Minerals Foundations, has also donated £20,000 to food banks in Redcar and Clevelan, and a meal delivery service for vulnerable people in Whitby, as well as donating laptops to schools to aid remote learning.

It plans to launch a post-Covid recovery fund in the coming weeks.

Mr Edmunds added: "We’ve been fortunate to have not been too badly affected by the coronavirus crisis - we’re continuing to build and will actually be adding to our workforce later in the year as our shaft sinking operations ramp up.

“But we are acutely aware that many people in the community have been badly impacted and will continue to be.

"We want to make sure that the opportunities and benefits this project brings to the area are spread as widely as possible.”