York & North Yorkshire

Sirius seeking to lease North York Moors potash rights

Image caption Potash deposits under the North York Moors could be among the most significant in the world

Landowners on the North York Moors are being urged to lease mineral rights to a company planning to develop one of the world's biggest potash mines.

Sirius Minerals wants to mine potash, a potassium compound used in fertilisers, between Scarborough and Whitby.

It said it had made "a fair proposal" of payment to farmers and was meeting them this week to discuss its plans.

However, one farmer said landowners were worried about the environmental impact of mining in a national park.

Robin Gray, who runs a 215-acre farm at Harwood Dale, said: "I think the majority of people are... concerned as to what is it going to be, where is it going to be, what is it going to look like and what are the impacts going to be environmentally.

"We do live in one of the most spectacular parts of the world and, with the heritage coast and the national parks, the tourism industry could be devastated.

Earth's core

"The sensible approach to take is for Sirius to make very, very clear what their aims and ambitions are.

"To divide and conquer and invite small groups of people to exclusive meetings is not in my opinion a very clever and very sound way to make a judgement for the future."

The land earmarked for the project lies within the boundaries of North York Moors National Park, and planning permission would be required before any extraction could begin.

Sirius chief executive Chris Fraser said the company had so far secured mineral rights covering an area of about 620 sq km.

He said they were now "out there to sign up smaller landowners".

"It is the only place where potash exists in the UK and one of the few deposits of that scale and quality around the world," Mr Fraser said.

He said that under UK laws, mineral deposits at any depth "from the surface to the Earth's core" were effectively owned by the landowner.

"We have to go and strike an agreement to effectively lease these minerals to enable us to mine them in the future."

He would not reveal how much landowners were being offered but said the agreement would involve an annual rights fee and royalties should production commence.

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