AN exhaustive planning process into a bid to mine the world’s biggest deposit of a valuable potash mineral is now officially underway.

After two years of talks, the North York Moors National Park Authority has received a planning application from Sirius Minerals to mine polyhalite, used in potash, from within the park’s boundaries.

The plans have sharply divided opinion in the region. The mine would be sunk near Sneaton, Whitby to access an estimated 1.3 billion tonnes of polyhalite.

Geologists believe it is the world’s biggest and best quality supply of the mineral and the mining company says it will lead to more than 1,000 direct jobs.

Many are keen to attract the investment and job-creation, including North Yorkshire County Council, which has already said it will support the £1.5bn project as it will bring a major boost to the county’s economy.

But others are voiced serious concerns over the environmental impact.

The North Yorkshire Moors Association has disputed the estimated number jobs the project will create and voiced concerns over the environmental impact.

Designs for the mine released last year show the site would occupy less than 4.5 hectares of the 100-hectare site controlled by York Potash. Separate plans for the pipeline, which will transport the mineral ore about 30 miles to Teesside for processing, will be lodged separately with the National Infrastructure Directorate.

About 25km of the pipeline will pass through the national park. A spokeswoman for the North York Moors park authority said the planning application would be available to the public next week, shortly after it validates the application on Monday, February 4.

She said they had been meeting with York Potash over the plans for two years.

Now the park authority had a team of experts working on the plans, which included one officer who would be working full-time on the project.

It is believed it cost York Potash £65,000 in fees just to submit the plans to the authority.

A spokeswoman said: “The authority understands the significance of the proposals and will carefully assess the potential economic benefits as well as the environmental impacts in accordance with the authority’s planning policies and taking all relevant considerations into account before reaching any decision.”

The application will be available for public inspection next week at the authority’s offices on Bondgate in Helmsley, Whitby Town Council’s offices at Pannett Park, Whitby and Scarborough Borough Council’s offices on St Nicholas Street in Scarborough. They will also be available for view online at