THE company behind a new multi-billion pound polyhalite fertiliser mine near Whitby says construction is advancing well and it remains on target to achieve commercial production on time.

“The company remains on track to achieve first polyhalite in 2021 and in line with its cost schedule,” said Sirius Minerals Plc in its latest quarterly update.

It revealed that the company had signed a ‘take-or-pay’ supply agreement during the quarter with Indian Farmers Fertilisers Cooperative Limited (IFFCL) for the supply of the POLY4 fertiliser in India, with volumes under the agreement increasing to one million tonnes per annum.

It said IFFCL was one of the largest co-operative societies in the world with access to over 55 million Indian farmers, adding: “The agreement provides access to one of the top three fertilizer markets in the world.”

Sirius is set to extract up to 20 million tonnes a year of polyhalite ore from the new underground mine.

It is building a 23-mile tunnel to transport the material from the mine to a processing facility in Redcar without impacting on the local landscape, with the tunnel sitting at an average of 250-metres below ground level.

The fertiliser will be distributed around the world from Redcar.

Sirius managing director and CEO Chris Fraser said $825 million of funding had been successfully raised during the quarter and the company was making good progress with the remaining components of its financing package.

The update said the excavation of a 35-metre diameter service shaft to 45 metres was completed in the first quarter of 2019, enabling work to start on excavating an inner-main shaft to a total depth of approximately 120 metres.

“The main shaft has now been excavated to approximately 85 metres below ground level, using conventional excavation techniques,” it said.

The update said that during the quarter, the company had initiated 29 new agronomy trials, with a total of 48 trials initiated in 2019 to date.

It said the total number of trials established by the company now stood at 430 on 48 crops in 30 different countries.

The company had also continued to establish a significant number of on-farm demonstrations to show to future end-users the benefits of incorporating POLY4 into their fertilizer programmes.

The update said the procurement of an overland conveyor to transport POLY4 from a Materials Handling Facility to the port was completed during the quarter.

“The cost of the contract is in line with the company’s existing cost estimates. Site clearance continues at the Redcar Bulk Terminal site and good progress is being made.”