News of ‘shocking’ job cuts at the Woodsmith mine in Whitby has been met with calls for long-term staff jobs to be saved. 

Anglo American has confirmed that about half of the jobs at its Woodsmith fertiliser mine near Whitby will be lost amid plans to slow down the project and cut costs.

Capital investment in the scheme is set to be reduced from a planned £800m a year up to 2027 to £160m next year following the rejection of a multibillion-pound takeover bid by BHP.

Tom McCulley CEO said: “We are slowing down the development of Woodsmith in a way that allows us to accelerate again as soon as we can.”

A company spokesperson told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “We are still in a consultation period but the proposed changes will see the Anglo American workforce gradually reduce over the coming year by approximately 50 per cent to 160 people.”

The spokesperson said they did not know “the exact numbers” of impacted roles for contractor partners but added that reductions would be gradual as the work slows “over the coming 12 months”. 

The operation of the mine is understood to cost more than £2m a day. 

Cllr Neil Swannick, who represents the Whitby Streonshalh division, said he was “shocked” by the news of redundancies and had “pressed North Yorkshire Council to help staff and businesses affected find alternative employment and financial advice in the present crisis”.

He added: “I would like to hear a commitment from the senior management of Anglo American that they will prioritise the retention of local long-term employees and re-hire locally if and when the company finds strategic partners to enable the project to gear up again in the future.”

‘Minimise the impact’

When asked what action North Yorkshire Council was taking to support affected staff earlier this month, the authority’s corporate director for community development, Nic Harne, said: “We and neighbouring local authorities are working with Anglo American to provide help and support to the company’s plans to minimise impacts on both individuals and businesses.”

Both Labour and Conservative parliamentary candidates have held meetings with the company and today renewed calls for jobs to be protected. 

Conservative candidate  Roberto Weeden-Sanz said the mine was “essential to the future of our community on the coast” and called on the company to “consider a less dramatic slowdown”.

He told the LDRS: “It is important that the high-skilled workforce which is required for the project to be completed is not lost due to short-termism. 

“If elected I will be pushing the government to engage with the company after the election to ensure the future of the project is safeguarded.”

Labour candidate Alison Hume said that job losses meant “the worst has happened” and urged Anglo American to “put Whitby and Scarborough workers right at the top of the priority list”. 

She added: “It is vital that bespoke retraining is available as there are no equivalent opportunities available given the highly specialised nature of many of the jobs. 

“If elected, I will be attending a meeting with Anglo American along with the York and North Yorkshire Mayor in July to discuss the support packages on offer whilst we wait in hope for a new investment partner to arrive.”

The CEO Mr McCulley said: “We know that this slowdown is hard for everyone affected, and we are doing everything we can to minimise the impact on our workforce and the local community. The support we have for the project has been fantastic and we are determined to try to sustain that trust during this difficult phase. 

“We are currently working closely with a number of local organisations on a workforce and supply chain support programme that will help people affected by the slowdown to find new roles in the local area through our partnerships with other businesses, suppliers and local councils.”