OVER £5m has been injected into local communities by Sirius Minerals as the company works towards developing it's huge fertiliser mine on the North York Moors.

The mine near Whitby and accompanying 23 mile underground transport conveyer system to Teesside which will employ up to 1,000 people is not due to be finished until 2021.

But part of the planning permission was that up to £1.7m a year would be paid by the company towards local schemes including education and skills development, tourism, landscape and ecology.

Briony Fox, Director of Conservation at the Moors National Park, said contributions from Sirius had so far included many habitat programmes including planting 40,000 trees last year, improvements to historic buildings and monuments and upgrades to over 20km of footpaths.

She added: "This will increase year on year, in 2019 a further 60,000 trees will be planted as part of a 7,000 hectare woodland that will see a total of 10 million new trees. Funding from Sirius is also contributing to the Slowing the Flow project to alleviate flood risk by natural techniques such as building dams and planting trees."

The company is also paying for a 10-year education and skills programme across North Yorkshire and the Tees Valley. This includes a £1 million programme to promote science, technology, engineering and maths in local schools which has already worked with 8,000 young people over the last year.

Some of the money is going towards schemes that improve job prospects for people across the area including Scarborough Jobmatch and Construction Skills Village, and East Cleveland Training and Employment Hub. The Hub has already worked with 700 people, resulting in 245 securing jobs with a wide range of companies including Sirius Minerals and its contractors.

Matt Parsons, External Affairs Manager for Sirius said: "Our project will operate in the area for many years and we are committed to being a positive part of the community. In addition to our efforts to boost employment and skills, it is great to see our funding to local authorities being put to such good use.

"We are delighted students and people seeking work are already benefitting and that a wide range of environmental projects have already been delivered with work on track to increase rail services between Whitby and Middlesbrough."