Britain’s only potash mine is cutting hundreds of jobs and switching away from potash production in a further blow to industry in north-east England. The mine, in Boulby, plans to shed 220 jobs and 140 contractors from a total workforce of more than 1,000.
Israel Chemicals (ICL), which owns the mine, will stop producing potash by 2018 and turn more attention to making Polysulphate – an environmentally friendly fertiliser, it said – at the site on the North York Moors.
ICL said it had encountered geological problems at the 198-hectare (490-acre) mine which had affected production of potash. It now had only a small amount of economically viable reserves.
Boulby is a few miles from Redcar, where 2,200 steelworkers have lost their jobs because of the closure of SSI’s steelworks. The Cleveland area has relied on the remnants of a once large manufacturing base for well-paid jobs to support the local economy.
Peter Smith, executive vice president for potash at ICL, said: “We understand that proposals for staffing reductions will cause concerns for employees and their families, as well as the wider community in east Cleveland. The process we are now embarking upon, although difficult and challenging, is aimed at ensuring that it will continue to be a major force in the local community.”
The company said it would spend up to £40m at Boulby to increase production of Polysulphate, which it produces exclusively, from 200,000 tonnes this year to 1m tonnes in 2020. It might also build a granulation plant at the site.
ICL said that once the switch was made it would remain a large employer in the area though not as big as before.
Tim Bush, regional officer for Unite, a union representing 800 workers at the mine, said representatives would meet ICL this Friday to ask why the job losses were needed if the company was investing heavily in producing Polysulphate.
Bush said: “This is another serious hammer blow to employment in the north-east. The region is already an area of high unemployment, which seems to be have been forgotten by government. We will be seeking to mitigate the number of job losses and will be strongly supporting our members in the days and weeks ahead. It is disastrous news for the workforce, their families and the regional economy.”
The Boulby mine, Britain’s deepest, has produced more than 1m tonnes of potash and more than 500,000 tonnes of salt a year. Its potash is used for fertiliser production and glass making, and in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. The salt is used for road maintenance, animal feed and sugar beet cultivation.
Anna Turley, Labour MP for Redcar, said: “This is yet another blow to the community, who have already been subjected to thousands of job losses from the closure of SSI in Redcar in the last few weeks. My thoughts are with the miners and their families who have been affected by today’s announcement.”
She said she would support Tom Blenkinsop, Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, who is to seek an urgent question in parliament next week about problems faced by industry in Teesside.
Source: The Guardian
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