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Progress made at Anglo American Woodsmith polyhalite mine

Published by , Editorial Assistant
World Fertilizer,

Anglo American has provided an update on the construction of its Woodsmith polyhalite mine on the North Yorkshire coast of England, updating investors that the project has continued to progress well during 2020 despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani, announced that the company will invest half a billion US dollars (or £375 million) in the project in 2021, an increase on the US$300 million (£225 million) it had previously committed to spending. The improved funding commitment was, he said, a reflection of the good progress that was “ahead of expectations” and “to ensure that the critical path elements continue to proceed at the optimal pace and sequence.”

It was also revealed that the first drive of the 37 km tunnel from Wilton on Teesside was nearing the 12 km mark and that good progress was being made on preparing for further mineshaft sinking operations at the Woodsmith Mine site near Whitby, which are expected to begin in the new year.

“It’s been an incredibly challenging and busy time on the project recently, not least because of the adaptations and safety measures we’ve introduced to make sure that we can work safely during COVID-19,” said Simon Carter, Chief Development Officer on the Woodsmith Project. “But I am incredibly proud that the whole team has pulled together and enabled us to make such good progress. I’m delighted that we have been able to buck the trend of many businesses and expanded our workforce, providing important opportunities for people in the region in these difficult times.”

Anglo American has hired around 150 new people since it launched a recruitment drive in the autumn, with around 60 more expected to be hired in the coming weeks. Almost three quarters of these new workers have been hired from areas local to the project in North Yorkshire and Teesside, a trend the company is working hard to continue in further recruitment drives scheduled for the new year.

“We are building a project that we want people to be proud of and that provides opportunities for local people for many decades,” said Mr Carter. “Ensuring local communities prosper and grow is central to how Anglo American does things, and these new jobs are another example of us doing that.”

Today’s announcement of increased funding is expected to allow the project to recruit an additional 130 construction workers and dozens of additional management and administration roles in the spring, which will increase the size of the workforce to around 1400.

The project involves the sinking of two mineshafts into the polyhalite ore over a mile beneath the surface near Whitby, and the construction of a 23-mile-long tunnel to a new processing and shipping facility on Teesside. When the mine is complete, extracted polyhalite ore will be hoisted up the mineshaft and transported underground on a conveyor belt, avoiding any impact on the countryside above. From there, it will be shipped around the world and sold to farmers as a natural low carbon fertilizer, certified for organic use.

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