THE owners of Boulby potash mine have announced a £38m investment programme to boost production of an agricultural fertiliser to 600,000 tonnes a year.
The mine, operated by Cleveland Potash Ltd (CPL), currently produces 130,000 tonnes of polyhalite, which has been marketed as Polysulphate since 2010.
ICL Fertilizers, its parent company based in Tel Aviv, says geological studies indicate deposits of more than one billion tonnes of polyhalite under the existing potash mine near Loftus in Cleveland.
The investment, which attracted a £4.9m grant from the UK Government, will be made over the coming year. The potential for further expansion will also be assessed.
Nissim Adar, ICL chief executive, said: “We see significant potential in increasing our production capacity and marketing of Polysulphate from CPL’s mine. We are very grateful to the British Government for their faith in ICL and in this project.
“The positive response by our customers to Polysulphate, and our expectation of increased demand for this fertiliser, led us to decide to substantially increase our production.”
Phil Baines, CPL’s managing director, said: “Over the past two fertiliser seasons, we began to introduce Polysulphate into agricultural markets in an amount of tens of thousands of tonnes.
“We have been very encouraged by farmers’ positive reaction, which indicates a potential to sell hundreds of thousands of tonnes at an economically feasible price over the coming years. As a result, we are prepared to expand production and sales.
“In addition, the fact that the polyhalite deposits are located below CPL’s existing potash workings facilitates the mining process, making it more efficient and economical to produce. These factors were the basis for our decision to invest in the expansion of our production capacity.”
The mine employs 1,100 workers and the expansion will create 125 direct jobs and 265 in the supply chain.
The money will go on underground equipment and surface facilities to crush and screen material, as well as upgraded rail and dock facilities.
CPL is the only company mining polyhalite today. A unique mineral, it is a complex salt comprising sulphur, potassium, magnesium and calcium – all essential nutrients for crop production.
Polysulphate is also low in chlorides and can be used as a speciality fertiliser suitable for crops and agricultural land that are sensitive to chlorine. As a natural product, it is certified and approved for use in organic farming systems.
Boulby is the UK’s only potash mine, and produces more than a million tons of potash for fertilisers and more than half a million tons of salt each year.