One of Britain’s biggest engineering projects will start today as digging begins on a £640million 23-mile tunnel beneath the Yorkshire Moors.
Sirius Minerals will break ground on the first section of the project, which is expected to create 2,500 jobs and as a whole will cost a total of £3.2bn.
The tunnel aims to connect the company’s Teesside port near Redcar to its Woodsmith Mine south of Whitby, where it plans to extract potash, a type of fertiliser.
One of Britain’s biggest engineering projects will start today as digging begins on a £3.2billion 23-mile tunnel beneath the Yorkshire Moors (stock image)
It will be the second-longest tunnel in the country, behind only the 26-mile underground section of London’s Crossrail.
The deepest sections will burrow almost 1,150ft beneath the ground – more than the height of the Eiffel Tower. Chris Fraser, chief executive of London-listed Sirius Minerals, said: ‘It is an exciting time for the company as we continue to make excellent progress across the project.
‘The life of the mine will span multiple generations, so the facilities that we are building here today will continue to provide jobs and attract investment to Teesside for many years to come.
‘The mineral transport system is a clear example of Sirius’ commitment to delivering the most sustainable project possible, from both an environmental and operating cost perspective.’
The tunnel aims to connect the company’s Teesside port near Redcar to its Woodsmith Mine south of Whitby (pictured above), where it plans to extract potash, a type of fertiliser
It is hoped the 16ft-wide tunnel will eventually be able to transport as much as 20million tons of potash every year on a conveyor belt.
Enormous circular boring machines will be used for the tunnel’s construction, extracting more than 42million cubic feet of earth.
Some 1,000 jobs are directly linked to the work and another 1,500 are set to be created in supply chains, and Jake Berry, minister for the Northern Powerhouse, is expected to attend the ground-breaking ceremony at Sirius’ Teesside harbour and processing facility.
He said: ‘Through the development of its Woodsmith Mine, Sirius Minerals is becoming a global player set to create thousands of new jobs and provide a major economic boost to the Northern Powerhouse economy.’
Sirius said using an underground tunnel meant the company’s operations would not be affected by any problems on the road and rail networks. It has already started construction of Woodsmith Mine.
At full production, mine and tunnel are expected to add £2.3billion a year to the UK’s GDP. They will also generate exports of £2.5billion, reducing the UK’s trade deficit by 7per cent, and make annual tax contributions worth £472million a year, Sirius said
Mine shafts at the site will go as deep as 5,250ft to extract polyhalite – a type of potash used to boost plant growth and crop yields.
Vast, 260m-year-old deposits of the mineral lie underneath Yorkshire, the only region in the world where it is currently mined. Analysts at Liberum have previously speculated it could eventually be worth more than £225 ($300) per ton, although initially would be worth about half as much.
The tunnel is due to be operational by 2022 and is designed to last for 100 years. Construction is being managed by Strabag, which previously worked on the world’s longest railway tunnel in Switzerland. The Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps is 35 miles long.
Thomas Birtel, chief executive of Strabag, said: ‘We are delighted to be breaking ground at Wilton and are proud to be involved in helping to regenerate an area with such a rich industrial heritage.’
At full production, mine and tunnel are expected to add £2.3billion a year to the UK’s GDP. They will also generate exports of £2.5billion, reducing the UK’s trade deficit by 7per cent, and make annual tax contributions worth £472million a year, Sirius said.
The ground-breaking today will see preparation work begin on the first section of the tunnel, between Teesside and an intermediate shaft at Lockwood Beck.