EDITOR: | May 20th, 2013

York Potash Project approvals update

| May 20, 2013 | No Comments
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May 20, 2013 — (Source: Sirius minerals) — York Potash Project approvals update

  • Objections received from the Environment Agency and Natural England.  Sirius is confident that these are most appropriately dealt with via conditions to an approval for the York Potash Project
  • Additional submissions made to the Ministry of Defence with meetings to take place this week to resolve any outstanding issues
  • Sirius to provide robust responses to the reports prepared for the National Park Authority on the potash market and the tourism industry

The Directors of Sirius Minerals Plc (AIM: SXX, OTCQX: SRUXY) (“Sirius” or the “Company”) are pleased to provide an update on the York Potash Project (the “Project”) approval process.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius, commented:

“The planning case for the York Potash Project remains compelling as it will deliver many benefits to the local and national economies, whilst also providing a unique multi-nutrient form of potash for the agriculture sector.  We remain confident in our submission and believe that detailed planning conditions can satisfy these objections and provide the reassurance of either no impact on neighbouring moorland, or achieving an improvement, without the need for unnecessary delays to the determination of this important project.”

Update on objections received

The Company has been informed that objections have been submitted by Natural England and the Environment Agency as part of the North York Moors National Park Authority’s (“NYMNPA” or “the Authority”) statutory consultation process.  Sirius’ understanding of these objections is that there are four key issues.  These follow the holding objections previously submitted by these bodies and will have to be taken into account in the decision making process of the Authority at its special planning committee meeting to be held on 2 July 2013.

One objection from Natural England is an in-principle objection on landscape grounds given the proposed location of the mine within the National Park.  This will need to be taken into account by the Authority in its decision making process and weighed against all the other policy considerations as part of the planning process, including the many benefits of the Project.  The Company believes it has submitted a world leading design that demonstrates best practice for sustainable development.  The site for the York Potash Project benefits from extensive screening which will be enhanced during construction as part of the development.  The landscape assessment completed as part of the planning application and updated to reflect the revised spoil placement proposals concludes that there will be “no long term significant impact” with these mitigation measures put in place.

Another objection relates to foul drainage plans for the site and was raised by the Environment Agency.  The Company believes this can be satisfied by a ‘planning condition’ regarding detailed design which provides the right level of comfort that operations will not negatively affect a nearby stream.  Further discussions are being progressed on this point.

The two remaining objections primarily relate to general hydrological issues and the possible impact on a relatively small area of protected moorland to the west of the mine site.  The Company has conducted a detailed hydrological risk assessment as part of its recent submissions but contained in these objections are opinions that more survey data may be required to better understand the possible impacts of the construction of the Company’s innovative sub-surface buildings outside of this specific habitat area.  These designs have been adopted to reduce the visual impact of the Project and, with differences in scale, are very similar to the existing sub-surface structure located within the Special Area of Conservation.

The Company will be having detailed discussions with the two organisations involved and its own experts over the coming days to seek an appropriate resolution on these points in advance of the 2 July 2013 NYMNPA meeting date.  Sirius and its consultants believe that a detailed set of planning conditions can provide the right level of assurance to ensure that the groundwater levels in neighbouring land are monitored and maintained to ensure there is no negative impact on the ecological environment.  In addition, the Company is willing to agree and fund a detailed management plan for the area in question which will provide enhancement to this area, reversing the decline in suitability of the area to support the designation, and which binds the Project to maintaining and improving the quality of it for the life of the Project.

Sirius and its consultants believe that any request for additional survey work is unreasonable in planning terms and will not provide information of greater value than what has already been collected and provided.  Climate change and the significant variance in rainfall levels over recent years significantly de-values the type of surveying being suggested as a basis for an impact assessment and design of associated mitigation measures.  It is the position of the Company that greater value is obtained from developing detailed and enforceable management plans to maintain or improve ecological environments such as the one in question.

Ministry of Defence holding objection update

The Company is in on-going dialogue with the Ministry of Defence (“MoD”) regarding reassurances over any interaction between the York Potash Project and the RAF Fylingdales facility.  The Company and the MoD are meeting this week with a view to resolving any outstanding concerns.  The Company remains confident of a successful resolution and will provide a further update in due course.

Authority reports

A series of reports have recently been issued by the Authority.  These include the issues report presented to the members of the NYMNPA planning committee on 16 May 2013, a report on the potash market by Integer Research, and a report on the potential impact on tourism of the Project.  The Company is undertaking detailed reviews of these documents and is preparing formal responses to each of them as, individually, they contain statements and conclusions that are inaccurate.

The report produced by Integer Research Limited was compiled without any interaction with the Company and this, in the Company’s opinion, has resulted in a disappointing and inaccurate report on both the market for potash and polyhalite.  The Company has made significant progress marketing polyhalite as a sustainable multi-nutrient form of potash and expects to announce progress on this in the very near future.

The Tourism Report, whilst based on sound quantitative data, in the opinion of the Company, appears to have been based on some questionable methodologies and made some inappropriate and inaccurate extrapolations from the quantitative results.  Irrespective of this, the Company has already committed to working with the National Park and the regional tourism body to design an appropriate mitigation strategy around the promotion of the unique qualities of the local area to offset any negative perceptions.


Raj Shah

Editor:

Raj Shah has professional experience working for over a half a dozen years at financial firms such as Merrill Lynch and First Allied Securities Inc., ... <Read more about Raj Shah>


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