The Woodsmith Project, a polyhalite fertiliser mine being developed on the North Yorkshire coast, now has more than 1,300 people employed full time in the constructionof the project, up from 1,000 at the end of last year.

The project, run by the giant Anglo American group, will shortly hire more than a dozen local apprentices to add to the 14 already employed on the project. Hundreds more contractors and local companies are engaged in the supply chain.

Anglo American Chief Executive Mark Cutifani revealed that excavation of the astonishing 23-mile underground conveyor belt to take the polyhalite from the mine near Whitby to the docks at Teesside had reached just over nine miles, beyond Lockwood Beck where the company is sinking a small intermediate shaft for tunnel ventilation and access.

That shaft has reached its full depth of 383m and is being lined before connecting it to the tunnel. Mr Cutifani also said that shaft sinking at Woodsmith Mine had begun on the service shaft. The company expects to invest around half a billion dollars (£360m) on the project this year.

“The first half of the year hasn’t been without its difficulties for everyone, not least because of the ongoing restrictions that we’ve been working with during the pandemic,” said Chris Fraser, CEO of Anglo American’s Crop Nutrients business. “But I am incredibly proud that the whole team has pulled together and that we’re continuing to provide important opportunities for people in the region. We’re determined to provide as many jobs for local people as we can and build a long term local workforce - our apprenticeship programme is testament to that.”

The company has provided £150,000 so far this year to support local organisations in North Yorkshire and Teesside, part of a £300,000 Social & Economic Development Plan designed to help increase employment opportunities and raise aspirations in the region. The project’s charitable foundation has donated £236,328 to good causes, including over £125,000 in Covid-19 recovery funding and significant donations to food banks and other emergency food supplies during the pandemic.

“We continue to identify ways in which we can help and support people, business and organisations in the areas around our operations,” added Mr Fraser. “Anglo American is committed to the area for the long term and is determined to make a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our communities, as well as the local environment.”

The Woodsmith Project involves digging two 1 mile deep mine shafts at Woodsmith Mine near the village of Sneaton near Whitby, and a 23 mile transportation tunnel to a processing facility and port on Teesside. In a world first, most of the surface infrastructure at Woodsmith Mine is being built underground and the site landscaped to minimise the visual impact on the surrounding countryside. It will mine a giant deposit of the mineral polyhalite, which will be sold as a natural, low carbon environmentally friendly fertiliser.

Anglo American’s overall results showed profits before tax and deductions of $12.1 billion, driven by what Mr Cutifani said was “strong market demand and operational resilience”.