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Boring news: Sirius Minerals picks new contractor to sink shafts in North York Moors

Sirius Minerals hopes to speed up the construction of a fertiliser mine in the North York Moors by switching to a new contractor to sink its shafts.
FTSE 250 company Sirius has enlisted DMC Mining Services of Canada, a subsidiary of Poland's KGHM, to build the two 1,500m shafts it needs to mine polyhalite, a form of potash, underneath the national park.
DMC will use a new technique to dig the shafts which essentially turns a tunnel borer on its side to mine vertically instead of employing the traditional “drill and blast” process.
The SBR (Shaft Boring Roadheader) method was a “step change” on Sirius’s previous plans, said Chris Fraser, chief executive. The technique, developed by German firm Herrenknecht, had been trialled extensively by DMC at BHP Billiton’s Jansen potash mine in Canada, he said.
The contract award means Sirius may be able to extract polyhalite six months earlier than planned, by May 2021.
Boring news: Sirius Minerals picks new contractor to sink shafts in North York Moors

Construction work at Woodsmith is currently focused on digging a 120m pit in advance of the shafts being sunk

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Sirius Minerals
It had previously named AMC, a joint venture of two German and two Canadian firms, as its preferred contractor for the shafts but blamed “drawn out discussions” over “commercial arrangements” for the switch.
“This deal is better on all counts,” said Mr Fraser, adding that it was not paying any more for DMC’s services. “All bugs and issues [with SBR] were worked out at Jansen and it performed incredibly well in the latter half of that project.
“This will improve our schedule and it’s a great result for us.”
Sirius has secured $1.2bn (?866m) in stage-one financing that will pay for the sinking of the shafts. It hopes to raise stage-two debt financing of up to $3bn by the end of the year that will pay for a 23-mile long tunnel to transport the polyhalite to a new port. Some of this will be dependent on it securing further offtake agreements from suppliers willing to buy its product.
Sirius Minerals
Sirius hopes that its Poly4 polyhalite - a blend of potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur - will be in high demand among farmers globally to improve crop yields.
The company’s drawn-out battle to build the fertiliser mine, which it has dubbed Woodsmith, has captured the imagination of numerous retail shareholders in Yorkshire. It joined the main board of the FTSE last year with a market cap of ?1bn.
Construction work at the site is currently focused on digging a 120m pit in advance of the shafts being sunk. Around 500 people are at work on the project with Woodsmith set to employ 2,500 staff during peak construction.
The company's shares rose 2.3pc to 22.86p in lunchtime trade.
BHP is close to completing the 2km-deep shafts at its Jansen mine, but its future remains unclear after activist investor Elliott last year attacked the FTSE 100 miner’s plans to advance the project, which could cost up to $14bn.
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