Sirius Minerals has broken ground on the first part of a 23-mile tunnel at Wilton International, close to the former Redcar steelworks, which will be used to transport fertilizer between North Yorkshire and Teesside for export.
The tunnel for the mineral transport system (MTS) will be constructed in three sections and will pass through one consistent and well-known rock strata.
Austrian construction company Strabag is building the first section of the tunnel from Teesside. Recently, Strabag worked on the world’s longest railway tunnel – the 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps in Switzerland.
The underground system is a cost-efficient and low carbon method to transport large volumes of mineral to the port compared to traditional method of transporting fertilizer by road or rail.
Moreover, the tunnel will become a cost-efficient transport system for the company when it mines and transports polyhalite.
The ground-breaking programme marked the commencement of the construction to prepare the site for the first drive of the underground MTS between Wilton and an intermediate shaft at Lockwood Beck.
The new processing facility and harbour will be located adjacent to the site of South Tees Development, which intends to regenerate the area, including the former Redcar steelworks site, and create 25,000 jobs.
The project is expected to add 17% to the economic output of North Yorkshire and increase the size of the Tees Valley economy by 18%, as well as attract investment to the area through the creation of a new industrial cluster to support operations at Wilton.
Minister for the Northern Powerhouse Jake Berry said: “Through the development of its Woodsmith Mine, Sirius Minerals is becoming a global player within the Northern Powerhouse set to create thousands of new jobs and provide a major economic boost to the Northern Powerhouse economy.
“It’s the rapidly growing Northern Powerhouse with advanced manufacturers, makers and innovators like Sirius Minerals who are boosting exports from our region while helping us deliver a strong and resilient economy which is fit for the future.”
Strabag CEO Thomas Birtel 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.”