While Anglo American continues with its detailed technical review of the Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK, shaft sinking activities at the asset continue to progress, the company confirmed in an investor update today.
The project was acquired by Anglo American in 2020 with the purchase of Sirius Minerals. Since then, Anglo American has been working on refining the development pathway and overall production potential of the asset.
In an investor presentation today, the company outlined physical progress on the site, explaining that shaft sinking for the circa-1.6-km deep service shaft had progressed to the circa-265-m level. It also said the mineral transport shaft, which it is working on with Redpath Group as sinking contractor, had reached the circa-230-m level of a planned 321-m depth.
Regarding horizontal development, it added that the 37-km mineral transport tunnel – which will connect to the mineral transport shaft – had reached the 20-km development mark with tunnel boring machine technology.
The Woodsmith project overview includes the sinking of production and service shafts with 6.75-m diameters – having depths of 1,594 m and 1,565 m, respectively – and the 37-km-long concrete-lined tunnel containing a conveyor belt, which transports the polyhalite ore from Woodsmith mine, near Whitby, to the Mineral Handling Facility, on Teesside, for processing and shipping.
Both the service shaft and production shaft at Woodsmith are being sunk using Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader technology, which has previously featured on the Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada, where it excavated two 8-11 m diameter blind shafts down to circa-1,000-m-depth and the Slavkaliy-owned Nezhinsky potash project, where it ended up breaking shaft sinking records under the guidance of contractor Redpath Deilmann on a project to sink two 8-m diameter shafts (one to 750-m depth and one to 697-m depth).
The first cut for the service shaft was made in July 2021, with Anglo American and Redpath Deilmann – which is now leading the sinking project as shaft sinking contractor – restarting sinking activities on this shaft earlier this year.
In the same investor presentation issued today, Anglo American said it planned to start sinking in the production shaft in the March quarter of 2023.
While the ongoing review takes place, Anglo American confirmed it had approved $800 million of capital expenditure for Woodsmith next year, focused on shaft sinking and other critical infrastructure as part of its phased approach to the asset.
Stephen Pearce, Finance Director of Anglo American, said on Woodsmith: “As we have said for some time, we are improving the project’s configuration to ensure we realise the full commercial value over the expected multi-decade asset life. This will extend the development schedule and the capital budget, compared to what was anticipated prior to our ownership, and so potentially impact our carrying value of Woodsmith for accounting purposes at the year end.
“Looking ahead, we are even more positive today about the prospects for Woodsmith and its potential to become a high margin, major contributor to our diversified product portfolio given the outstanding nature of the resource and the premium pricing upside we expect to realise for Poly4 – the highly effective, low carbon fertiliser we will produce.”