Potash: E=MC2 …….?
- further insight into the Sirius Minerals plc proposal (York Potash Ltd) to mine Potash beneath the North York Moors National Park, by Vanda Inman.
What do York Potash intend to do with the void space?
York Potash Ltd has no stated plans for using the void space.
Time is running out. The York Potash Planning Application is due to be decided in a few weeks. Three significant objections; from the MoD, Natural England and the Environment Agency remain outstanding. Hundreds of letters of support for the Mine have been received by the NYMNPA, many based on self-interest, economic benefits and a desire to bring jobs to the area.
E=Mc² – Einstein’s theory of relativity – indicates that Mass and Energy are equivalent and convert from one to another at a constant speed that is relative to a point in time and space. Personally I see this equation as meaning that what matters is convertible into energy, and that depends on your position.
Going back to my first article, actually entitled “Arachnophobia”, it would seem I touched lightly onto the Sirius Project only to ignite a litmus paper whilst wearing tinted glasses. What was a simple opinion with straight forward concerns eg about the exchange of our well-established tourist industry for a “dirty industry”, but with a few quid, led by foreign invaders, followed by comments that included “would leave a ‘dirty great big hole’ in our beautiful National Park”, has sparked some rather speculative debate.
Those original assumptions were based on what little facts were presented, hidden amongst a pile of proposals and promises glossed over as The York Potash Project (hereinafter the ‘Project’). I really don’t have a fixed view, E=Mc² to me means that whilst life exists nothing is constant, so I don’t do monotheistic or monolithic, there always has to be a balancing act, like say the Tai Ji of Yin and Yang.
Trying to find an equilibrium to the positive and negative elements within this ‘Project’ has been quite hard. I like to assess risks, part of OCD. There is an old saying that if you do certain things, in a certain way, then certain things will happen. Once the risks are known, then it is easier to place a value on that risk and act accordingly, and back to E=Mc².
With this article I intend to make some further massive assumptions and poke a little into the future, based once again on certain facts that display certain information that may predict some almost certain possible outcomes.
So, after my initial Yin, there has been far too much Yang thrown at this Potash Project. An initial search on the Board of Directors found accountants, bankers and finance wizards and Capitalists galore (Al Gore-ish!). Then came the geologists, ecologists, investors, shareholders, opportunists, business leaders, chemists, lawyers, fraudsters, mischief-makers, downright liars, more lawyers, planning applications, diagrams, manuals, reports, consultants, more lawyers, more regulations, Public Authorities, Councillors, Legal Teams and Managing Directors, engineers, PR consultants, Apprentices, trolls, hardliners, regulations, rules, planning applications, manuals, engineers, pharmaceuticals, more geologists, investors, brokers, chemical contributors, more rules, authorities, people of influence, status, power, indeed it has been hard to find where the whole Malleus Maelificarum to this project begins and where the Spanish Inquisition will end – perhaps with the spectre of the Secretary of State looming on the horizon.
Trying to untangle all of the above, dare I say, ‘stakeholders’ (ouch) the Sirius Investors (iii SXX) and (LSE SXX) from the Sirius Executives and Management Teams and into other neat little ‘piles’ that have thrown in their lot, objectors, supporters etc, has been blurred by torrents of muddied exchanges of views, some real, some imagined, and some totally made up, depending on your perspective and at what speed you are travelling.
Frankly, IMO, all that untethered, mainly testosterone-fuelled, speculation has only managed to produce plenty of bullshit flying and flailing through the Ethernet and has failed to cut through to the core elements of what this Project is really all about.
Once or twice, or more, I have tried to inject some Yin into the debate by asking; “Can we trust Sirius?”
Do we trust Sirius?
Sirius Minerals plc, a.k.a. Sirius (or they, them or their, or York Potash Ltd), IMO, started with some glossy brochures that promised thousands of jobs, then York Potash tried to avoid an EIA assessment, then their terminology in the Mineral Rights Leases was at best confusing and at worst misleading, then they changed their design plans and their product, then their Public Consultation exercise was not easily accessed and very limited, and they poached Boulby ‘management’, who then inconveniently ‘forgot’ some basic MoD matter about the American Anti-Air Missile Defence & Star Wars System, then there was some consternation about the technology, design and build-ability factor. So, again I ask; “Do we trust Sirius?”
What do we know about them?
Sirius claim they are using new technologies and design innovations along with promises of developing a mine that will be world-class and environmentally-friendly. Meanwhile, all we can do is look at other Potash producers and compare their methods and facilities, such as K&S, Potash Corp and Cleveland Potash a.k.a. Boulby, which is quite handily just up the road.
Boulby has made its response.
Following on from this unsubtle competitive blow, perhaps we are being led to believe that there is no purpose or need for Polyhalite and that there must be some other alternative Sirius hidden agenda for building the deepest Pot Ash mine in Europe.
It has already been confirmed that the York Potash Mine will be a dry mine and house ideal conditions for storage of hazardous and toxic waste. In deed the ‘waste disposal business’ has high value earnings potential, perhaps higher than the product Polyhalite. Indeed other Potash mines do use hazardous materials in their backfilling processes and also for storing undesirable waste products. Whilst the NYM Planning Authority insists that a further Planning Application would need to be submitted to make use of the York Potash void space, it would seem logical that if an ideal ‘facility’ has already been created, then that future application would be seen more favourably. This Hazardous Waste business use for the Potash Mine has already been pursued by both Nigel Ward and Tim Thorne and been rubbished by Investors and assumed Sirius representatives.
NIA – Power
Should Sirius fail and not receive the planning permission they seem so determined to get, will they be replaced by a long queue of alternative companies and corporations, perhaps Israeli, American, Chinese, all wanting access to our North Yorkshire Moors and the facilities that they can create from the production of Potash?
Did he really say this:
“We can either continue to store this old waste above ground indefinitely and leave the final solution for future generations to resolve, or we can tackle this once and for all with a permanent geological disposal facility.”
I am beginning to be cynical about my own cynicism.
So why all the secrecy about the possible disposal of Waste? After all, if we create it, we should dispose of it safely. I personally do not have any issue with the Nuclear Industry in the UK. The benefits of the NIA , (63,000 jobs) and the potential to independently power the UK along with the science and expertise that is needed to manage and control this industry in the UK safely, sits quite comfortably with me. Further, should Nuclear Waste become a ‘localised’ industry then the Community benefits would far outweigh/value those promised by the Potash industry.
The only problem with this ‘assumption’ is that the NIA currently say they have no intention whatsoever of introducing a Nuclear Waste facility on the North East Coast, and that they intend to only store the radioactive waste as near to possible as where it is created, where the experts and experience are to hand. So you could ask if they would consider building a Nuclear Power Plant here as well – and I did, but no, unfortunately not. (Note to self – I will never get elected now)
MoD holding objection
So I go back to that basic Yin of questions: Should we trust Sirius?
What is their ‘hidden’ Agenda?
Looking further back at the history of Sirius it becomes clear that post-mining operations are very important to Sirius, well at least Chris Catlow, in 2010, was showing some Yin:
“To this end, Sirius has acquired the Intellectual Property and the issued share capital of three research and development companies focused on innovative new technologies for developing its properties post the mining phase. These technologies cover storing CO² in the salt caverns created through solution mining, approaches for safely sequestering CO² in underground salt beds, and the development of new CO² based Compressed Air Energy Storage facilities for generating electricity.”