Excavation operations will be ‘paused’ at Whitby’s Woodsmith mine until next week amid reports of staff refusing to work.

Anglo American will “pause shaft sinking activity” at its Woodsmith fertiliser mine “due to the current uncertainty for a lot of people about their future, and given the high-risk working environment,” the company has said.

It comes as Anglo American confirmed that around half of the jobs at Woodsmith will be lost amid plans to cut costs and reduce capital investment.

Since the company announced that more than a hundred jobs would be lost, some staff and contractors have reportedly “refused to work in protest”.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), a spokesperson said: “Collective Consultation for the Anglo American team started several weeks ago.

“Redpath, the project’s shaft sinking contractor, has also begun consultation.

“Employee representatives are meeting today to discuss proposed organisation structures and the process that will guide their workforce changes.”

The excavation work, which involves creating a 23-mile underground tunnel to the River Tees, will be paused until the start of the day shift on Monday, June 24.

David Skaith, the York and North Yorkshire mayor has said that he is committed to ensuring “every affected employee” at the Woodsmith mine gets support for re-employment and training.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has been told by several employees about staff refusing to work or go underground.

Many of the staff supplied via contractors are understood to be international workers and there have been calls to “prioritise local jobs”.

Labour’s parliamentary candidate Alison Hume said: “The impact of these hundreds of job losses just can’t be underestimated.

“Both workers and the whole area were offered so much by Anglo American and therefore I understand why workers and their families feel that they have had the rug pulled from beneath them.”

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

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

Anglo American’s spokesperson said: “We have always, and continue to, reiterate the importance of people working safely and that any job should be stopped if necessary – the safety of everyone is paramount. This is why we have taken the decision to pause sinking until Monday.

“The new business strategy has been planned in a way to best enable re-acceleration in the future.

“For now, we need to continue working to schedule to ensure the long-term future of the project.”

James Farrar, interim head of paid services at York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “The announcement surrounding the future of Anglo American’s Woodsmith Project is understandably of concern to the many staff, and associated businesses, which depend on the long-term viability of the site.

“The mine is a major regional employer, drawing its workforce from Scarborough, Whitby and other nearby rural and urban areas.

“While York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority is disappointed to learn of Anglo American’s decision to slow development at the Woodsmith Project, we consider the mine integral to our economic ambitions as a region.”