Construction work has started on the first stage of a controversial 37km fertiliser transport tunnel under the North York Moors national park.
The tunnel, which is part of Sirius Minerals’ £3.2bn Woodsmith Mine project, will transport polyhalite - a mineral used to produce fertiliser - from the mine near Whitby, North Yorkshire, to a materials handling facility and harbour in Tees Valley using a high capacity conveyor belt.
Strabag won the design and build contract to construct the 13km first stage of the tunnel in Teesside, and the contracts for two further sections are yet to be awarded.
Northern Powerhouse minister Jake Berry said: “Through the development of its Woodsmith Mine, Sirius Minerals is becoming a global player within the Northern Powerhouse set to create thousands of new jobs and provide a major economic boost to the Northern Powerhouse economy.
“It’s the rapidly growing Northern Powerhouse with advanced manufacturers, makers and innovators like Sirius Minerals who are boosting exports from our region while helping us deliver a strong and resilient economy which is fit for the future.
“Schemes of this type only serve to promote further sustained investment into areas like Wilton International and the South Tees Development Corporation, with the benefits keenly felt in their surrounding communities.”
The scheme faced objections due to its route through the National Park. But most of the permanent infrastructure will be underground. An open letter against the scheme was signed by 29 campaign groups including the National Trust, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and The Woodland Trust, ahead of the project receiving planning permission.
The processing facility will sit next to the South Tees Development Corporation regeneration site and is expected to add 17% to the economic output of North Yorkshire.
Sirius Minerals chief executive and managing director Chris Fraser said: “It is an exciting time for the company as we continue to make excellent progress across the project.
“The life of the mine will span multiple generations, so the facilities that we are building here today will continue to provide jobs and attract investment to Teesside for many years to come.
“The mineral transport system is a clear example of Sirius’ commitment to delivering the most sustainable project possible, from both an environmental and operating cost perspective.”
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