Tag Archives: Woodsmith

Worley receives PM & EPCM work at Anglo American’s Woodsmith mine

Engineering firm Worley has been awarded a contract for program management services and engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) to support Anglo American’s Woodsmith project in the UK, the mining company has confirmed.

Worley, in tandem with other contractors, is being tasked with delivering a polyhalite mine for its client Anglo American.

The project 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 a 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.

In Anglo American’s half-year results, released earlier this year, the company outlined that major critical path components had continued to progress to its updated plan at Woodsmith.

“[Our] ongoing technical review confirmed there are several improvements to modify design to bring it up to Anglo American’s safety and operating integrity standards and optimise value for the long term,” it said.

The company acquired Woodsmith when it took over Sirius Minerals in 2020.

Woodsmith Shaft Boring Roadheaders about to re-start cutting process

One of the most-watched shaft sinking projects in the sector right now is located in the UK, with the Woodsmith project in north Yorkshire having been on the radar for a number of reasons.

First off, it is a project that has changed hands recently.

Originally guided by Sirius Minerals, the 10 Mt/y project was acquired by Anglo American in 2020, a transaction that came with a fresh look at the whole project execution phase.

The change in ownership and re-assessment of plans drawn up by Sirius – a much smaller company guided by different investor pressures and operating procedures – led to Anglo American relieving DMC Mining, the lead shaft sinking contractor, of its duties.

Another reason for watching the project is the planned use of Shaft Boring Roadheader (SBR) technology from Herrenknecht.

After debuting at the Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada, where it excavated two 8-11 m diameter blind shafts down to circa-1,000-m-depth with the help of DMC as the contractor, SBR 2.0 – the second generation of the technology – was put to the test in Belarus at the Slavkaliy-owned Nezhinsky potash project. 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).

Herrenknecht, with its experience in mechanised tunnelling, developed the SBR for the mechanised sinking of blind shafts in soft-to-medium rock. Based on the proven technology of the Herrenknecht Vertical Shaft Sinking Machine, the SBR offers improved safety performance compared with conventional shaft sinking methods while also achieving higher advance rates, according to the company.

The SBR is a 60-m tall, suspended shaft sinking machine, with 12 work decks and two service platforms. A telescopic, boom-mounted cutting head is used to precisely excavate rock via a partial-face cutting method. The cutting head works in a cycle, starting each cut from shaft centre to shaft wall, repeating until a layer of material is removed. Excavation proceeds in 1-m increments, followed by SBR lowering sequences.

The SBR was chosen for Woodsmith by Sirius over the conventional drill and blasting method due to its advantages in improving safety and schedule. This methodology, Sirius said, would allow the company to satisfy several operational objectives, moving away from the use of explosives and providing a safer, more predictable work method. Instead of a linear process, the SBR allows work to be completed concurrently as the shaft is sunk, as well as minimising damage to exposed host rock, and further improving safety while minimising downtime. Work decks above the cutting head allow workers to install shaft lining and tubbing as excavation continues, while a pneumatic mucking system removes waste rock.

The third generation of technology – which builds on the first two deployments with, among other things, the addition of two retractable robotic probes to test and grout the ground ahead for safer excavation and an additional control cabin on surface for more remote operation – is due to sink production and service shafts with 6.75-m diameters to depths of 1,594 m and 1,565 m, respectively, at Woodsmith based on the Sirius plan.

These SBRs are being supported by four triple sheaved winches from SMS SIEMAG and conveyors from Herrenknecht-owned H + E Logistik GmbH, among other support equipment.

Work on the service shaft commenced in 2021 with former Anglo American Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani, confirming in July of that year that the “first cut” with the SBR had taken place in the service shaft.

This progress was made while the company was still completing a detailed technical review on Woodsmith to ensure the technical and commercial integrity of the full scope of its design. This review has a particular focus on the sinking of the two main shafts, the development of the underground mining area, and the changes required to accommodate both increased production capacity and the more efficient and scalable mining method of using only continuous miners, Anglo American said.

Since the first cut was made in July 2021, however, Anglo American and Redpath Deilmann – which is now leading the sinking project as shaft sinking contractor – have been reviewing the existing plans for sinking with the SBRs, carrying out minor hardware changes on the machines and ensuring all staff have the appropriate training to facilitate the completion of the shaft sinking process. The Redpath Group is also involved in the drill-and-blast-based sinking for the materials transport system (MTS) shaft.

Various shaft sinking rates have been mooted in the past at Woodsmith, and Anglo American is currently working to develop the optimal solution for the facility based on technical standards.

The sinking at Woodsmith represents a different challenge to the two previous SBR projects conducted to this point.

For starters, there is no ground freezing expected to take place at Woodsmith – unlike what happened in Canada and Belarus. This process, while time consuming and only used to freeze unstable water-bearing strata around the shaft, can create more rock uniformity to aide consistent cutting rates.

There is also the MTS level to consider at Woodsmith, with plans to carry out lateral development work around the 360-m-level to join up the production shaft with this level where polyhalite ore will be transported along a 37-km tunnel to Wilton near the port. This means vertical cutting and loading may be halted while the MTS level connection is established.

All these factors, along with the performance of previous SBR work, will be incorporated into the engineering work Anglo American is carrying out at Woodsmith, but, in terms of the SBR, signs are that work on the service shaft could recommence shortly, with plans to start sinking in the production shaft by the end of the year.

Anglo American leveraging NatureMetrics ‘eDNA’ solution to improve biodiversity knowledge at Woodsmith

Cutting-edge biotechnology, implemented by Anglo American to radically change the way biodiversity risks are evaluated and monitored at operations, has delivered the “best invertebrate data produced to date, using eDNA”, says Dr Vere Ross-Gillespie, Head of Extractives at NatureMetrics.

NatureMetrics’ environmental DNA (eDNA) tools were first piloted by Anglo American in South Africa, with, NatureMetrics says, impressive early results.

And now more recent research at the Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK has produced one of the “most comprehensive invertebrate datasets to date”, Vere says.

Warwick Mostert, Principal Biodiversity at Anglo American, added: “We knew that eDNA can deliver big data and this just goes to show what can be done with such a quick, safe and simple sampling approach. We can’t wait to see the results from other sites.”

The eDNA technology works by identifying genetic material – a fingerprint specific to each species – left behind by animals and organisms as they interact with their environment. Samples taken from water, sediment or soil are sequenced and compared with reference libraries, through a process called metabarcoding, identifying which species they come from.

Unlike conventional methods of surveying biodiversity on a site, eDNA can identify hundreds of species from different taxonomic groups from a single sample, while being quicker and safer to undertake in the field, the company claims.

The technology is already helping Anglo American, across business units globally, to measure the journey to delivering positive biodiversity outcomes and achieve the target of net positive impact on diversity, as outlined in its Sustainable Mining Plan, according to NatureMetrics.

In partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and NatureMetrics, the data collected from Woodsmith and other selected sites will be fed into the eBioAtlas program, creating a global database to support conservation efforts and inform international biodiversity policy.

Katie Critchlow, NatureMetrics CEO, said: “Anglo American is one of the first of our clients to roll out our DNA-based biodiversity monitoring solutions across multiple global operations. We are delighted to be working with a company that has made a public commitment to having a net positive impact on biodiversity and to be working with them to back that up with a meaningful measurement program.

“Our cutting-edge environmental DNA technology will provide the comprehensive biodiversity data that will help Anglo American on their journey to improving, measuring and reporting their nature impacts.”

NatureMetrics says the samples from Woodsmith – including those first taken by Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive, and Siobhan Grafton, Group Head of Sustainable Development – identified a staggering 522 distinct taxa representing 100 families of invertebrates. Of these close to 58% were identified to species level.

The vertebrate data set is also impressive, with more than 67 taxa detected of which approximately 62% were identified to species level, NatureMetrics said.

More than 500 aquatic insect species were mapped, giving an important and sensitive baseline measure of biodiversity and ecosystem condition, from which change can be monitored in future years.

Vere says the baseline “will help to inform Anglo American’s water quality and biodiversity monitoring at the site, while also contributing to efforts to achieve overall net positive impact moving forward”.

Sampling at the pilot sites will continue into 2022 and results will help paint a more comprehensive picture to drive Anglo American’s biodiversity decision making, according to NatureMetrics.

Cutifani said: “This is wonderful news; the sheer breadth of data which has been provided by these few samples we took at Woodsmith are precisely why we take our responsibility to the environment and biodiversity very seriously. Only by understanding the wildlife which thrives around our operations can we ensure that not only do we minimise impact on existing areas of biodiversity, but that we nurture and attract new species to make a positive contribution to the planet.”

Anglo American signals design changes at Woodsmith polyhalite project

Anglo American has outlined plans to change elements of the design at its Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK, which will have a bearing on both the sinking of the two main shafts and development of the underground mining area at the project.

The company has been running a detailed technical review on Woodsmith since mid-2020 to ensure the technical and commercial integrity of the full scope of its design. This followed the acquisition of the asset as part of a takeover of Sirius Minerals earlier that year.

“Now largely complete, the review has confirmed the findings of Anglo American’s due diligence that a number of elements of the project’s design would benefit from modification to bring it up to Anglo American’s safety and operating integrity standards and to optimise the value of the asset for the long term,” the company said.

Anglo is also making a change to the leadership at Woodsmith following its integration into Anglo American and ahead of the full project execution phase. Tom McCulley, who has led the development of the Quellaveco copper project in Peru, will take over from Chris Fraser as CEO of Crop Nutrients. This will see Fraser step aside and take on a strategic projects role for Anglo.

“The Woodsmith team is further developing the engineering to optimise the configuration of the project, recognising the multi-decade life of the mine,” Anglo said.

Particular attention is on the aspects identified at the outset of Anglo American’s ownership – namely, the sinking of the two main shafts, the development of the underground mining area, and the changes required to accommodate both increased production capacity and the more efficient and scalable mining method of using only continuous miners, it said.

The sinking of the two main shafts is due to be carried out using Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader (SBR) technology. DMC Mining, a company familiar with the technology thanks to its work sinking shafts at Jansen in Saskatchewan, Canada, was previously tasked with sinking the production and service shaft, each around 1,500 m deep, and two smaller shafts associated with the materials transport system, each approximately 350 m deep. Its contract was ended in 2020.

These improvements will, the company said, require the installation of additional ventilation earlier in the development of the underground mining area.

“Anglo American expects that these changes to the design of the mine infrastructure – which will result in a different, enhanced configuration and therefore a different construction and production ramp-up schedule – will ensure that its exacting standards are met and the full commercial value of the asset is realised,” the company said.

Mark Cutifani, Chief Executive of Anglo American, said: “We are very happy with the high quality and exciting potential of Woodsmith, with the scale and quality of the polyhalite orebody pointing to a quartile one operating cost position and strong margins. This is a very long-life asset and we are going to take the necessary time to get every aspect of the design right to match our long-term vision and value aspirations.

“We have said from the outset that we expect to make improvements and that we will execute certain elements of the construction differently and with a more conservative schedule. We expect to have completed our design engineering, capital budget and schedule at the end of 2022, with a fully optimised value case that recognises the upside potential we see in Woodsmith, and we will then submit the full project to the board.”

In the meantime, construction of the major critical path elements of the project, principally the two main shafts and the mineral transport tunnel, is progressing, with approximately $700 million of capital expected to be invested in 2022, Anglo said.

The plan at Woodsmith under previous owners Sirius was to extract polyhalite via two mine shafts and transport this outside of the National Park to Teesside on a conveyer belt system in an underground tunnel. It would then be granulated at a materials handling facility, with the majority being exported to overseas markets. The company was previously 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.

The changes to McCulley’s and Fraser’s roles are effective January 1, 2022. Anglo American has appointed Adolfo Heeren as CEO of Anglo American in Peru, effective from the same date. Heeren will work together with McCulley during the first half of 2022 to ensure a smooth transition from the construction and commissioning phase of Quellaveco into operations, expecting first copper production in mid-2022.

Siltbuster delivers modular water treatment system to Anglo’s Woodsmith mine

Siltbuster, the water treatment specialist, says it has designed and installed a surface water treatment solution for Anglo American at its Woodsmith polyhalite mine on the North Yorkshire coast of England.

The polyhalite deposit can only be accessed from within the North York Moors National Park, so extensive steps have been taken to limit the environmental impact of the mine, using innovative design solutions and engineering ingenuity, Siltbuster says.

The mine infrastructure has been designed to be sympathetic to its location: the number and size of the buildings has been reduced to a minimum, which, together with extensive landscaping and planting, will ensure the site is screened and blends in with the surrounding area. At the same time, mined ore will only be transported underground, in recognition of the sensitivity of the area, in a 37 km tunnel to the materials handling facility on Teesside, eliminating the need for surface transportation.

“This careful stewardship and protection of the surrounding environment has also extended to water management on site,” Siltbuster said. “During construction, the collected surface rainwater via the on-site collection drainage system can contain an elevated level of suspended solid particles which require removal prior to discharge back into the natural water courses to ensure there is no environment impact. The collected surface water passes through a series of lagoons to remove the gross solids, but the water can still contain elevated level of suspended clay particles that do not settle under natural gravity.”

Anglo American has, therefore, invested in a treatment system, with a high degree of system automation, located within a structure that blends in with the surrounding scenery, in line with the overall project design, the company says.

With the new modular treatment system in place, including 2no. HB200R Lamella Clarifiers with Mix Tanks, over 5.7 million litres of water can be treated each day. Continuous online monitoring of flow, pH and suspended solids of the treated surface water ensure discharge criteria are being met consistently before releasing back into the natural water course, Siltbuster explained. If any of the monitoring parameters are above the trigger level, the system will shut down automatically with an instant text alert submitted to the site operators.

Rob Staniland, Manager for Environment and Permitting at the Woodsmith Project, said: “It is essential that we have robust, reliable systems and partners to help us meet our stringent planning conditions and environmental safety targets. Siltbuster have proven to be just that, providing us with a great solution to helps us deliver on the minimal impact ethos of the whole project.”

Louis Pang, Project Manager, at Siltbuster, added: “The new treatment plant has not only provided an effective and easy-to-operate system, with the system design being modular and built off-site, the on-site construction and installation time was kept to a minimum, thereby minimising the environmental impact, an important environmental criteria set by Anglo American.”

Anglo American pledges further investment in Woodsmith polyhalite project

Anglo American is to invest more money in the construction of its Woodsmith polyhalite mine in Yorkshire, UK, in 2021, following sound progress on the development in 2020.

In an investor presentation this week, Chief Executive, Mark Cutifani, announced the company will invest $500 million in Woodsmith next year, an increase on the $300 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.

Simon Carter, Chief Development Officer on the Woodsmith Project, said: “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. 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.

The 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 next year, which will increase the size of the workforce to around 1,400.

The project involves the sinking of two mineshafts with Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader technology into the polyhalite ore over 1.6 km beneath the surface near Whitby, and the construction of a 37 km 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, the company says. From there, it will be shipped around the world and sold to farmers as a natural low carbon fertiliser, certified for organic use.

Anglo American ends DMC Mining shaft sinking contract at Woodsmith project

Anglo American has confirmed its Crop Nutrients business has ended the contract of its shaft sinking contractor, DMC Mining Services UK Ltd, at the Woodsmith polyhalite project in the UK.

Anglo, which only took ownership of the asset earlier this year, said DMC staff were expected to transfer to Anglo American under the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations, and construction progress was due to continue.

DMC was awarded the design and build contract for the construction of the deep shafts at the Woodsmith project back in February 2018 when the project was owned by Sirius Minerals.

This contract would have seen it engineer and construct four shafts at the project in North Yorkshire. Those shafts include a production and service shaft, each around 1,500 m deep, and two smaller shafts associated with the materials transport system, each approximately 350 m deep. It was to sink the deep shafts using Herrenknecht’s Shaft Boring Roadheader technology.

Herrenknecht developed the SBR for the mechanised sinking of blind shafts in soft to medium-hard rock. Based on the technology of the Herrenknecht Vertical Shaft Sinking Machine, the SBR offers improved safety performance compared with conventional shaft sinking methods while also achieving higher advance rates, according to the company.

DMC, itself, had become familiar with the technology after helping successfully sink two blind shafts to depths of -975 and -1,005 m, respectively, at the BHP-owned Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Sinking activities with the SBRs at Woodsmith, meanwhile, were expected to start next year, with the machines having already arrived on site.

A spokesman for the Woodsmith project said of the DMC contract cancellation: “This new structure provides us with simpler internal processes and allows us to better manage the important transition between the sinking phase and ramp-up to steady state operations.

“It also gives us greater control over processes like local recruitment and training.”

STRABAG wins MTS contract for Sirius UK polyhalite project

Sirius Minerals has varied its existing mineral transport system (MTS) tunnelling contract with STRABAG AG to include the engineering, procurement and construction of the fit-out of the system at its polyhalite project in Yorkshire, England.

The MTS fit-out scope includes the fit-out of the MTS conveyor, the maintenance railway, electrical and communications infrastructure, and all other services in the tunnel essential to the operation of the MTS.

Sirius said the price of the MTS fit-out was in line with the company’s capital re-estimate announced on September 6.

The MTS will carry the company’s mined polyhalite from 360 m underground at the Woodsmith mine site to the materials handling facility at Wilton, Teesside, on a 37 km underground conveyor system. The tunnel will be constructed by three tunnel boring machines and the conveyor system in the MTS will be designed to handle 20 Mt/y of throughput. It will also contain maintenance rail and services, including a 66 kV power feeder from Wilton International industrial complex.

More than 50% of the MTS fit-out price is on a fixed rate or lump-sum basis, with the remainder based upon estimated prices to be converted into fixed prices prior to completion of stage two financing. The proposed schedule for the MTS fit-out is in line with the company’s overall project schedule, Sirius said.

This is a significant step forward for the project, with Sirius saying it has now completed its procurement for the major construction packages related to the stage two senior debt financing process.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, said the company’s efforts were now focused on the successful execution of its financing plan to fully finance the construction of its polyhalite project.

As previously announced, the company expects the capital funding requirement of the project to be $3.4-$3.6 billion (previously $3bn), with a $3 billion senior debt financing being the appropriate level of debt.

Given the timing of completion of the final procurement contracts, final lender commitment letters are expected to be received in December and January. The company is targeting financial close of stage two financing in the March quarter.

Sirius awards more contracts for North Yorkshire polyhalite project as capital costs rise

Construction firm STRABAG and engineering group Jacobs have become the latest recipients of contracts for the Sirius Minerals’ owned North Yorkshire polyhalite project in the northeast of England.

STRABAG, which had already been awarded a design and build contract for the first drive of the mineral transport system (MTS) tunnel between Wilton and Lockwood Beck, near Teesside, has been contracted to construct drives two and three. Jacobs, meanwhile, has been given an engineer, procurement and construction contract for the materials handling facility (MHF) at Wilton.

These announcements came as Sirius updated its capital cost estimate for stage two of the project, which is expected to see the mine expand from 10 Mt/y of polyhalite to 20 Mt/y.

This has seen the stage two capital requirement go from $3 billion in November 2016 to $3.6 billion today.

The majority of the cost increase is associated with the MTS (pictured), which Sirius said reflected its own increased understanding of the “geotechnical characteristics of the strata within which the MTS will be excavated”.

This followed further ground investigation and seismic work that led to a refinement of the parameters set out in the geotechnical baseline report upon which the tunnelling contract was determined.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius Minerals, said the cost increase reflected “an optimisation of the MTS tunnel design and a significantly improved risk allocation for Sirius to support the senior debt financing”.

The MTS cost increase is driven by a combination of the following factors:

  • Optimisation of the tunnel design including an increase in the planned internal diameter of the tunnel from 4.3 m to 4.9 m and an increase in lining thickness from 250 mm to 350 mm;
  • A decrease in advance rates as compared from 25 m/d to 17 m/d, and;
  • A commercial risk allocation which transfers construction and delivery risk to STRABAG.

The MTS includes a 37 km tunnel for a conveyor system to transport the polyhalite from the mine near Whitby to Wilton on Teesside for processing. STRABAG will construct the tunnel by using a Tunnel Boring Machine and the company expects to use a high-capacity conveyor belt system capable of transporting 20 Mt/y of polyhalite at 7.5 m/s.

The MHF will be constructed and managed by Jacobs’ UK subsidiary, with the EPC contract agreed on a target price basis, with financial incentives for completing the scope of work under budget, and financial penalties should completion be late or the cost be above the target price.

The plant has been scoped to include 7 Mt/y of granulated and 3 Mt/y of coarse product in its first phase of development but with a footprint for up to 20 Mt/y of granulated product.

Sirius said its procurement process for the project is nearing completion for the major packages and it is in the final stage of negotiations for the outstanding scopes of work.

Included in this is the MTS fit out, which includes the supply and installation of the MTS conveyor and the associated power supply, and the port facilities which includes construction of the outload circuit, wharf and product storage facility.

Sirius has identified STRABAG as its preferred contractor for the MTS fit out and is in advanced negotiations for provision of port facilities.

As the upfront capital for stage two of the project has increased, Sirius has developed a construction programme that defers the initial costs associated with the port facilities and has amended the scope of work to include temporary truck and train transportation of product from the storage facility at Wilton to the port.

“This enables the construction of the overland conveyor to be deferred until such time as it can be funded through operating cash flows, currently assumed to be 2025,” Sirius said.

While capital costs may have increased in this latest update, the company’s operating cost estimates have actually dropped from $32.6/t in stage one (10 Mt/y) to $29.4/t, and $27.6/t in stage two (20 Mt/y) to $27.4/t.

Sirius has already raised $1.2 billion for mine construction at the project, which is expected to produce first polyhalite in 2021, reach 10 Mt/y production in 2024, expand to 13 Mt/y in 2026 and grow further to 20 Mt/y in 2029.

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.