Global mining company, Anglo American, has announced its strategy for the new multi-billion pound polyhalite fertiliser mine being built in North Yorkshire.
With projections for the production of 13 million tonnes a year, the first of the natural, multi-nutrient, low carbon polyhalite fertiliser, POLY4, is expected to reach the market in 2027. When complete, the site is expected to continue producing for 40 years.
The polyhalite will be extracted from a mile under the North Yorkshire coast at the company’s Woodsmith Mine near Whitby, before being transported on a 23 mile tunnel to Teesside for granulation and shipping around the globe. In a world first, most of the surface infrastructure at Woodsmith Mine is being built underground and the site landscaped to minimise the visual impact on the surrounding countryside. The two mineshafts are currently around 360m and 120m deep, and the tunnel is at around 13.5 miles. The company expects to spend around £800m per annum in the next three years.
Duncan Wanblad, chief executive of Anglo American, said: “There is no other natural mineral fertiliser with the scale of potential impact of POLY4, and Anglo American has the only scalable source of polyhalite globally. This mineral is distinct in its composition, behaviour, benefit, and therefore its value.”
“Farmers today must produce more food for a growing global population, whilst meeting increasing consumer, supply chain and governmental expectations for improved sustainability. POLY4 is uniquely positioned to help simultaneously address these interconnected challenges, because it increases yield and nutrient use efficiency, is low carbon and improves the health of the soil compared to conventional chemical fertilisers.”
Natural mineral fertiliser
Containing potassium, sulphur, magnesium and calcium, as well as numerous micronutrients, POLY4 is a natural mineral fertiliser suitable for organic farming due to an absence of chemical processing. The product is made by crushing and granulating the polyhalite mineral giving a carbon footprint up to 85% lower than comparative conventional chemical fertilisers.
Chief marketing officer for Angelo American’s Crop Nutrients business, Dr Alexander Schmitt, said: “POLY4 will help farmers achieve more balanced, sustainable fertiliser practices at a scale not seen in the industry for decades. The product delivers better results than the same blend of nutrients available from conventional sources today, delivering sustainability benefits beyond the nutrient content and setting POLY4 apart from traditional fertilisers.
“For example, our commercial trials have demonstrated that POLY4 can improve the efficiency of nitrogen and phosphorous by 6% compared to MOP, potentially reducing the amount of chemical fertiliser that needs to be applied. This is down to its prolonged nutrient release profile and multi-nutrient nature; just like you or me, consuming a more balanced and nutritious diet makes plants stronger, healthier and more productive.”
The calcium in POLY4 can enhance soil health by helping to stabilise the soil structure and increase its strength and resilience, improving water infiltration and retention, drainage and aeration, and fostering a more favourable environment for soil life. In addition, because POLY4 is low in chloride and pH neutral, it has no detrimental effect on the soil biology.