Proposed Potash Mine Near Pickering - Plans Delayed
8:08am 16th September 2013
(Updated 9:11am 17th September 2013)
Plans for a potash mine near Pickering have been delayed. It's being announced this morning that a decision on whether the shafts will be built near Sneaton won't be made till the end of next year. It's as the company behind York Potash - Sirius Minerals - does more work on the impact the mine would have.
Chris France is Director of Planning at the North York Moors National Park Authority. He says the company needed to look at the plans again.
A decision was originally expected in May of this year, but there were various objections to the plans.
Sirius Minerals say that further to the announcements on 18 July 2013 and 6 August 2013, the Company has been in a range of productive discussions with advisers, experts, the North York Moors National Park Authority ("NYMNPA" or "the Authority") and other statutory bodies about how best to proceed with the approvals process for the York Potash Project and address issues such as hydrological monitoring and European Habitat Regulations.
They add that as a result, in order to provide an enhanced level of comprehensive information to decision making bodies on the overall impact of the whole Project, Sirius has decided to alter its approach and will align the environmental study work for all four key elements of the project (mine, pipeline, materials handling plant and port). They add that this is possible because the Company has completed more work on other aspects of the Project, now allowing a more comprehensive assessment of cumulative impacts of all of the elements of the project. The company says it differs from the previous approach which focussed initially on a joint Environmental Statement for the mine and the pipeline.
Sirius Minerals say that additional information for the mine application will be submitted for determination by the NYMNPA in July 2014 once further work has been carried out to enable a full cumulative assessment of the mine with the other areas of the Project. The submission of applications for the remaining three project areas to the appropriate authorities will follow shortly thereafter, they add. Sirius Minerals say the revised approach better reflects the wishes of a number of the decision making authorities and key statutory consultees.
Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, says:
"Further, extensive work on the port and materials handling facilities has helped to de-risk the Project, but it has also generated more information that needs to be assessed in conjunction with the other applications. As a result this new approach will reassure the decision making bodies that sufficient information is available on each element needed to deliver the whole project.
"With the benefits of the York Potash Project proceeding being so substantial, I know that our many supporters will welcome this revised approach that delivers greater certainty and leaves little room for debate over the high level of environmental standards that we are adopting.
"The mine development has the longest lead time so it previously made sense to progress that application as a priority over the other required infrastructure applications. This revised approach will closely align the projects to ensure there are no unknowns for the decision makers.
"Overall we continue to be very encouraged by the growing level of interest in our project from major industry players, underpinned by strong crop trial results to date, a huge resource base and low projected operating and capital costs relative to the rest of the industry. Our confidence in the development of the York Potash project as a world class fertilizer asset continues to strengthen."
Revised approvals strategy
Sirius Minerals say that on 18 July 2013 the Company requested a deferral to the determination of its mine application by the NYMNPA following the publication of a number of reports by the Authority's consultants. They add that these reports provide a detailed schedule of additional information that the Authority's advisers believe should be provided. The issue of European Habitats Regulations was also raised and the perceived linkage between habitats and protected species (birds) at the port and mine site, which needed to be addressed, say Sirius Minerals.
Since the deferral, the Company has completed a full review of its planning submissions and conducted a gap analysis of work needed to address the issues raised. As a result say Sirius Minerals, of the advice received from its consultants and legal advisers, the Company intends to complete an Environmental Statement for each application where required across each area of the Project. They add that each Environmental Statement will include a cumulative impact assessment to encompass the impact of the other schemes progressing and the in-combination effects on European sites will also be assessed. This approach, they say will give comfort to decision making bodies and has been agreed with the NYMNPA and confirmed to be a sensible approach by the Planning Inspectorate.
Whilst additional environmental work is being completed, the Company adds that it will be further substantiating its planning policy case for the mine approval, particularly around the 'major development test'. Other aspects of the application such as the socio-economic impact assessment will be updated and other reports and submissions will be clarified where necessary, say Sirius Minerals. Some studies that NYMNPA consultants were critical of, such as hydrogeology, transport and landscape will also be remodelled and updated, they add.
Revised approach and new consultants
Sirius say they have also reviewed its consultant teams, replacing some where necessary and strengthening the project team with additional consultants in other areas. The aim, they say has been to seek leaders in respective fields and they will be supported by existing and new specialists.
Primary consultants have been engaged across all four key areas of the Project in order to maintain consistency, say Sirius Minerals. They add that this has included appointing Royal Haskoning to lead the Environmental Statement work, Nathaniel Litchfield Partners as lead planning consultants and specialist policy advice from Quod Consulting, led by John Rhodes. John was one of the Government's advisers on the National Planning Policy Framework ("NPPF") and is uniquely placed to advise the Company on all policy aspects of the approvals for the Project say Sirius Minerals.
In a continuation of progress on the Project, the Company says it expects to announce details of its preferred lead Project Management Study Contractor ("PMSC") consultant in due course, which is an internationally recognised firm. This leads to the possibility, subject to funding requirements, say Sirius Minerals, of the Definitive Feasibility Study ("DFS") being completed in the second half of 2014. They add that a number of areas of work for the DFS have already commenced as part of the Company's work to date, however work has been reduced due to the focus on the total project approvals.
Sirius Minerals say the new approach will deliver a new Project timeline. They add that additional submissions covering all aspects of the environmental and policy issues for the mine will be made by July 2014. The Authority is then expected to review the information, prepare its recommendation and make a determination at a special planning committee meeting.
The approvals for the other aspects of the Project are being developed in parallel and environmental study work is already on-going say Sirius Minerals. They add that the pipeline approval (which is made to the Planning Inspectorate) will be sought following the completion of an on-going review that is investigating possible variations to further reduce any environmental impacts associated with its construction and operation. Work on the materials handling plant application and the port facilities (to be submitted to either Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council or the Planning Inspectorate) are all being developed in parallel to the mine approvals process, say the company.
Progress updates and future announcements
The Company say they have placed an indicative schedule of submissions on the 'key planning documents' page of its Project website (www.yorkpotash.co.uk). Over the coming months, say Sirius Minerals it will engage in a series of meetings and discussions with the NYMNPA and other key statutory stakeholders and decision making bodies, as is a normal part of the planning process. It adds that it intends to publish some related documents on its website, such as monthly progress reports and meeting minutes to ensure transparency.
Sirius Minerals say that the planning application for the mine will be determined impartially and based on its merits in relation to adopted local and national policies and by either members of the NYMNPA planning committee or, in an appeal or call-in situation, the Secretary of State. They add that as a result, the details in key planning documents, which may be either supportive or unsupportive of a positive approval, are unlikely to constitute market sensitive information and are therefore unlikely to be announced separately unless it is deemed to be material.
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