A £3billion plan has been drawn up to secure the future of a North Yorkshire mining project, protecting more than 1,600 jobs.

Global mining company Anglo American has already started pushing ahead with a new strategy for the Woodsmith polyhalite fertiliser mine near Sneaton, south of Whitby.

The project is currently building two deep mine shafts over a mile deep and a 37km-long tunnel to a processing area at Wilton on Teesside.

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After investment of £400 million in 2022, it has also been announced that the capital expenditure for this year will be £650 million and approximately £800 million per year for the following three years.

The project already employs more than 1,650 people at its sites in Whitby, Teesside and Scarborough with the majority being from the local surrounding communities.

One recent study has also shown that the Project contributed £222million to the Yorkshire and North East economies last year and over £1.2billion since it began.

Tom McCulley, CEO of Anglo American’s Crop Nutrients business, said: “Anglo American’s purpose is to re-imagine mining to improve people’s lives and with the Woodsmith project we are truly delivering on this.

“As well as the direct economic impact of the project, we also support broader long-lasting social benefits as part of our thriving communities programme. Real lives are changing – in the last two years we supported over 150 people in the area to find employment or to set up their own business as well as engaging nearly 9,000 young people in the area through our work with local schools.

“Progress has really ramped up at the project over the last year; the tunnel is over halfway at 22km, the intermediate shaft at Lockwood Beck is complete and the shafts at Woodsmith Mine and Ladycross making great headway.

“This confidence from the Anglo American board shows the belief in the project and our POLY4 polyhalite product that will help to solve challenges in the global agricultural industry and also has a significantly lower carbon footprint than competing fertilisers.

“This is a mining project that has been designed like no other – with great care placed on the design to deliver minimal surface impact.”

The company announced that it expects to ultimately produce 13 million tonnes a year of POLY4. First product is expected in 2027 with expansion to follow as the market for polyhalite develops.

When complete, Woodsmith will become one of the world’s most significant fertiliser mines and is expected to be producing for 40 years or more.

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“There is no other natural mineral fertiliser with the scale of potential impact of POLY4, and Anglo American has the only scalable source of polyhalite globally. This mineral is distinct in its composition, behaviour, benefit, and therefore its value,” said Duncan Wanblad, Chief Executive of Anglo American.

POLY4 is a natural mineral fertiliser that contains potassium, sulphur, magnesium, and calcium plus numerous micronutrients. Suitable for organic farming due to an absence of chemical processing, the product is made by simply crushing and granulating the polyhalite mineral, giving a carbon footprint up to 85% lower than comparative conventional chemical fertilisers.

It can easily blend with other fertilisers and fit into a farmer’s existing crop nutrition plan without having to adopt any new technology.