Sirius 2019 >> MMXXI

Captain Black's picture

Special K : Valiam

"Fertilisers are routinely added to soil to enhance plant growth and increase crop yields. They include three main macronutrients: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). If any of these macronutrients were to become unavailable or inaccessible to agriculture, a global food crisis of unprecedented scale would likely ensue. 

Potassium is integral to plant growth and animal health, but it is a non-renewable resource. Unlike nitrogen and phosphorus, whose supply and recycling details are well-documented, little is known about the potassium supply and consumption cycle. Although potash, the raw material used to produce potassium fertilisers, is abundant, it is located in the northern hemisphere, meaning its availability in the tropics involves a high transport cost.

By 2050, global demand for grain is expected to have increased by 60%, while global cropland area will have increased by only 10%. Estimates show that crop production needs to increase by 25%-70% above current levels to meet 2050 demand, but emissions and nutrient losses must drop dramatically in order to restore and maintain ecosystem functions. Can countries work together to close yield gaps in the Global North and South in order to feed humanity by 2050, when the global population is expected to exceed 9bn?"

"As #2018 draws to a close we’re saying goodbye to the Bauer team, who have constructed 7.2km of concrete d-wall panels at the #WoodsmithMine site. A big thanks to the whole team for their hard work and commitment."

"In 2016, just over half of the UK’s food supply originated outside the country, including 30% from the EU, 5% from Africa and 4% from South America. After Brexit, if the UK’s food imports originate less from the EU and more from countries in the Global South, the gaps between nutrient outputs and fertiliser inputs could widen (Figure 2). 

The UK is effectively mining nutrients from soils in the world’s poorest countries, which have no local fertiliser production. This makes food supplies even more vulnerable – especially when factoring in ongoing pressures such as climate change, which pose a significant risk to global food security. There are, however, opportunities for countries with no local fertiliser production to establish it, especially where there are known deposits that could be mined.

In many low and middle-income countries, minimal fertiliser is used for growing crops. Zambia uses the most fertiliser in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, at 46.2kg per hectare. This figure pales in comparison to the amount used in EU countries – 160.1kg per hectare. Latin America and the Caribbean use 127.9kg per hectare, and North America uses 126.6 kg per hectare. Countries with low fertiliser production should not necessarily be raising their fertiliser input to the same level as those with high inputs, because overuse is undesirable for increasing yields over the long term. To sustain the global food supply, fertiliser inputs will need to increase, but potassium inputs may need to double to compensate for what is removed by crops. In addition, intensification of agricultural lands is likely to be required in order to feed the rapidly growing populations in the developing world."

"What can be done about this global challenge? Local potassium fertiliser production in the Global South is urgently needed to enable agricultural systems in developing countries to feed local populations. National governments need to support geological exploration of potassium-bearing minerals such as potassium feldspar in Malawi, Ethiopia and Eritrea. It’s clear that the problem of potassium deficiency and other mineral resources for agriculture are not merely a global trade concern, and that much work remains to be done.

Geologists, agronomists and soil scientists must drive forward scientific initiatives to identify new potassium-bearing minerals and explore conventional mineral-based fertilisers in developing countries. Agronomic knowledge also needs to increase to allow us to understand the potassium status of soils, especially in Africa. This approach has been pioneered in Brazil, where the use of novel locally derived ‘remineralisers’ is federally regulated.

In addition, new markets need to be developed for alternative potassium fertilisers – a process that requires scientists, policymakers and economists to work together. The UK and EU countries stand to benefit from working with the Global South to secure food supplies both locally and globally. They can do this by discovering and investing in innovations such as mineral recycling, alternative mineral resources and alternative farming practices that improve soil quality and maximise yields. 

Scientific and policy leadership from the UK could help the developing world reach targets for the UN Sustainable Development Goals, to make potassium consumption and production responsible and sustainable. We must understand the impact that local consumption has on the global market – not just for potassium, but also for the other minerals and nutrients needed to maintain a healthy diet."

Oh. Oh K?

LIV Long & Prosper




Capt. 'Bob''s picture

One Hat, One Man, One Mission

Knew it was somewhere :-


OOh I have some Snow Drops to go paint 

With Warmth & Depth :-))

“We’re a part of the land, the animals, the stars, the trees, the fresh air, the water,” Sumner says. “We look after that and it looks after us. We’re a part of it, we don’t separate ourselves from anything.”

Keep Digging ...

Captain Qahn's picture

Bob 'Pickling...'

"Robert Goodwill the Conservative MP for Scarborough & Whitby raised the question of funding for Sirius just now to Teresa May in Parliament. She could not answer fully as it is commercially sensitive but acknowledged meeting Sirius CO in China and commented it is the type of project we should be looking at which will be good for the North."

Cheers ;-)

"More than 1,500 metres beneath the rolling beauty of the North Yorkshire moors, a rich seam of mineral wealth that stretches across hundreds of square kilometres could bring billions to the regional and national economies.

It’s not oil or gas that lurks there but a naturally occurring mineral called polyhalite, a substance formed more than 250 million years ago, which contains sulphur, calcium, potassium and magnesium, four of the six elements essential for plant growth.

It has the potential to revolutionise the world of agriculture. It’s an organic fertiliser whose extraction and refining creates practically no waste product. If things go to plan, it could be taken out of the ground and sent to market within the space of a day by 2021.

The mineral will be mined, taken over tens of kilometres on a subterranean conveyor belt, then ground down and processed at a site next to a deepwater port. From there it will be shipped across the globe to confirmed customers in Asia, the Americas and beyond.

With the world's population set to hit nine billion by 2050, the 21st century is going to be defined by the struggle to feed more and more people from shrinking agricultural land resources. Advancements in fertiliser technology are going to be at the forefront of that fight.

Sirius Minerals, a mining company formed in 2003, believes that with polyhalite – to be marketed as POLY4 – it has found a product that will potentially bring in more than £2.5bn of exports a year when the project is running at full capacity by the late 2020s and create thousands of jobs.

However, before Sirius can even take a single tonne from the ground, they will have had to embark on one of the most extraordinary extraction operations seen in the industry, one that will see the deepest mine in Europe sank and the longest tunnel in the UK built.

Three kilometres inland from the picturesque seaside town of Whitby, the main site of the project is at Woodsmith mine, below the North York Moors National Park, a protected expanse of more than 1,430 square kilometres of heather moors, pasture and woods.

The mine will consist of two shafts sunk to 1,520m, the level of the 70m layer of polyhalite. Remotely operated machines will excavate the mineral, and it will then be taken up to a depth of 360m, where the 37km conveyor belt will take it to the handling facility at Teeside harbour.

Whereas the mining of most ores creates more waste than finished product, the purity of the seam at Woodsmith means all that will happen to the mined mineral is that it will be ground down and turned into POLY4 granules, before being loaded on to ships.

To assuage local fears that the project would compromise the landscape, Sirius has committed to industrial standards which will see more records claimed in this, the first new mine to be sunk in the country for 40 years.

The headframes – structures which contain the winching equipment that operates the lifts in the shafts – will be entirely underground, a unique feat. Construction of the shafts will be a novelty, too: the initial 120m will be bored down, rather than blasted with explosives, a British first. And the machine drilling down to 1,500m has only been used twice before around the world.

The entire footprint of the mine when the site is fully operational will consist of a scattering of agricultural-style buildings – the entire site will also be covered by 7,000 hectares of woodland, allowing for the carbon emissions of the construction period to be offset.

As Maurice Rankin, general manager of corporate communications for Sirius, says: “Sustainability [has been] at the core of everything we do – sustainable mine design, with as low an environmental impact as possible and stringent mitigation measures where necessary.

“This has resulted in unique innovations such as the sunken headframes and the underground transportation system, which had never been done before anywhere else in the world, to create an essentially invisible mine that will disappear into the landscape, at the same time as providing economic opportunity for generations to come.”

The company is currently in the middle of a second round of financing. The initial stage raised $1.2bn (Dh4.4bn) in 2016, which has funded the advanced state that both the Woodsmith and Teeside sites are in.

By the end of Q1 in 2019, Sirius aims to have secured an additional $3.4-3.6bn – $1.5bn in commercial loans matched by the same figure in a loan guaranteed by the British government, with the excess likely to come from the capital markets."

In for a penny ...

Ooh that put me off me dinner ...


Captain Qahn's picture

SXX & The Community

The next LGF will take place on Thursday 7 February between 1.00 – 2.30pm at Sneaton Village Hall, Beacon Way, Sneaton, Whitby YO22 5HS.

Erm ...   Why aren't those shafts all the same circumference ?

Weren't they sposed to be dragging it out on a drift?

Green ... the containers are sposed to be Green

Sweet Peas...

Hi Ho ..

"The moon will appeared 14 per cent bigger and 30 per cent brighter as it reaches its closest point to our planet."

Touch Wood ;-)


"This year's is Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

Captain Qahn's picture

The Waffle Shop

"Sirius Minerals has unveiled the first of its 1,800 tonne tunnel boring machines (TBM) that will construct the company’s underground mineral transportation tunnel between Whitby and Teesside.

The 225-metre-long machine is undergoing final checks in Germany before being shipped to Teesside in the coming weeks, where it will be reassembled and start tunnelling in the second quarter of the year. Primary schools across Redcar and Cleveland have been given the opportunity to enter a competition to name the first machine.

The single-shield TBM will be operated by leading construction firm Strabag, who also worked on the 35 mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps. Initial excavations have already begun to prepare for the machine’s arrival.

The machine will bore the first of three planned tunnel drives which will make up the 23 mile tunnel from a new underground mine, near Whitby, to a processing facility on Wilton International in Redcar. Two other machines are planned to be launched in 2020 from Whitby and Lockwood Beck, near Guisborough, to complete the final 15 miles of the six-metre diameter tunnel. Workers will operate the TBM 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, lining the tunnel with concrete segments as it goes.

When complete, the tunnel will transport up to 20 million tonnes a year of polyhalite ore on a conveyor belt from the mine, to a purpose-built processing and shipping facility in the shadows of the old Redcar Steelworks, for distribution around the world. A tunnel was chosen as the transport solution to avoid impacting the local landscape and will have no impact on the ground above, sitting at an average of 250-metres below ground level.

Chris Fraser, Managing Director and CEO of Sirius said: “The assembly of our first tunnel boring machine represents an exciting milestone for the company and the region. With around 1,000 people currently employed across all of our sites, the team working to make this project a success continues to grow as we deliver this world class project. We expect to create hundreds more skilled construction roles in the coming months to help build our mineshafts, tunnel and mineral handling facility.”

Sirius expect to reach the polyhalite seam in 2021 and to be producing 10 million tonnes of fertiliser per annum by 2024, bringing about around 1,000 new long-term operational jobs."

Words ...


“I go in Smith’s a lot and I don’t think there is room.”

Twin Peakes?

Darn it ;-)

Thou must not worry ...

At Face Value.