Sirius Minerals signs materials handling agreement for Woodsmith potash project

Sirius Minerals has secured up to 10 million tonnes per year of shipping capacity for its Woodsmith polyhalite mine in the northeast of England.

The miner, through its York Potash Ltd subsidiary (YPL), has signed a materials handling agreement with Redcar Bulk Terminal Ltd (RBT) under which RBT will provide port and ship loading services from its existing Redcar Bulk Terminal port facility (pictured).

RBT and York Potash Processing & Ports Ltd (YPPPL), another Sirius subsidiary, have entered into a long-term lease for land adjacent to the company’s existing port facilities for its finished product storage facilities.

Woodsmith contains the largest known, highest grade resource of polyhalite to be found anywhere in the world. The JORC resource of 2,660 Mt represents 7% of the project’s area of interest.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, said the agreement reduced the complexity of the company’s construction programme and “ultimately helps to simplify our stage two financing plan which is being finalised over the coming months”.

So far, the company has raised $1.2 billion for mine construction as part of its two-stage financing package. The company is expected to need another $1.8 billion for stage two.

Fraser said the RBT facility has been underused since the closure of the steel works in 2015 and this agreement will “ultimately help us deliver tremendous economic benefits for the region”.

RBT’s port facility is located adjacent to Sirius’ Bran Sands site and is also a deep-water terminal capable of handling up to Capesize-sized vessels. RBT has historically operated as a bulk import terminal in connection with the adjacent steel works.

In order to handle Woodsmith polyhalite exports, some capital expenditure, predominantly ship loaders and conveyors, is required at RBT to facilitate the loading of ships.

Pursuant to the agreement with RBT, Sirius will, as part of the soon-to-be-completed procurement plan, acquire and install the necessary ship loading equipment and systems onto the RBT-owned facility.

RBT will operate and maintain the new equipment installed and owned by Sirius. The services are to be provided for a period of 10 years from first shipment of polyhalite, subject to customary extension and termination rights for YPL.

While the agreement is for up to 10 Mt/y of production from Sirius, from the third year of production, YPL will guarantee certain payments to RBT for a minimum volume of materials handling.

These volumes are set in line with the company’s sales expectations.

Via YPPPL, the company has also secured a 30 year lease (with rights to renew) over 40 acres (16.2 hectares) of land adjacent to the RBT port facilities and the company’s Bran Sands port site. This land will be used to develop the company’s finished product storage facilities.

“Locating the storage facilities adjacent to both port locations provides the company with a more efficient loading circuit by substantially decreasing the distance from the warehouse (previously planning to be located at the materials handling facility at Wilton) to the ship loader,” Sirius said.

The company received planning permission from Redcar Cleveland Borough Council for locating the storage facilities on the RBT site on April 30, 2018.

Polyhalite will be extracted via two mine shafts at Woodsmith and transported outside of the National Park to Teesside on a conveyer belt system in an underground tunnel. It will then be granulated at a materials handling facility, with the majority being exported to overseas markets. The company is aiming to achieve first product from the mine by the end of 2021, ramping up to an initial production capacity of 10 Mt/y and then full production of 20 Mt/y.

Sirius appointed DMC Mining Services, a subsidiary of KGHM Polska Miedz, to carry out the shaft sinking at Woodsmith in February.