An oblique view of current York Potash developments
- by Vanda Inman
- “We may have some trouble with Ted Hawbaker…”
The Bismarck Tribune newspaper (North Dakota) reported that a company that had been exploring the potential for potash mining in North Dakota was abandoning the project. Don Dickie, a senior geologist for Dakota Salts’ parent company, Sirius Minerals PLC of London, told The Associated Press:
- “The test results weren’t as promising as hoped and it would focus instead on a project in England…”
Ted Hawbaker, of Portal (ND), said:
- “The land where test drilling was done hasn’t yet been restored to its original condition, even though drilling ceased about a year ago.
- The site is “a mess” and the state Industrial Commission, which granted the drilling permit, hasn’t done anything about it”, Hawbaker told a North Dakota legislative committee studying potash taxation.
- There’s plastic, there’s junk all over. It hasn’t been cleaned up,” Hawbaker said. “It sits there just as they left it.”
Ed Murphy, North Dakota’s State Geologist, said Dakota Salts would restore the site in springtime. The work will include filling in waste disposal pits and removing a short gravel road that provided access to the site. That work has now been done
It is quite ironic how ‘small town politics’ can turn into Chinese whispers, quite literally. From the Sirius Investors website, it is clear that anyone who raises concerns about Sirius’ Potash projects, is viewed, discussed and met with pretty some fierce ‘reasoned replies’:
03.01.13 Thu 17:28 – WG and…populationexpectations
“To J O and Sq and those who have taken the time to respond politely with a reasoned argument to the Detractors many thanks. ( Yes JO I know you and thank you and Sq especially and others for your continuing positive input in so many ways ) I was going to reply to the WG “antis” but you have beaten me to it with your points so well put.”
But, that treatment is not just for individuals, but for the local National Park Authority as well . For example, this comment:
03/01/13 Thu 14:30 RE: WG philwad 18+
- “The most telling part ‘We have been working with them for two years now prior to the application being submitted – it won’t just land on our desk and we have 16 weeks – we have had two years dealing with it.’
- “Working with them” A.K.A. helping them to ensure a successful outcome within 16 weeks.”
To my reading, that comes pretty close to an allegation of collusion.
And then it is repeated, by another participant:
03/01/13 Thu 14:4 RE: WG Sheffieldsteeler
- “The most telling part ‘“We have been working with them for two years now prior to the application being submitted – it won’t just land on our desk and we have 16 weeks – we have had two years dealing with it.’
- ‘Working with them’ A.K.A. helping them to ensure a successful outcome within 16 weeks.”
Don’t forget that the Councils of Whitby and Scarborough have been fully supportive of the project, from day one.
This is a quote from Tom Fox, Leader of Scarborough Council, following the initial announcement of the huge discovery in October 2011:
- “It is really good news, and it is exciting news. The fact that the find is so substantial really encourages the investment needed for this project will need. The demand for potash globally is massive, so this is a fantastic opportunity for us in the area. We just hope that they can move forward now to put in a planning application that is acceptable to everybody.”
Sounds positive to me. Also, I do not think that it is any co-incidence that Matt Parsons was recruited from Scarborough Borough Council. The Council have always stated their desire to ensure that the project is utilised as much as possible in terms of local employment; what better way to do that then getting ‘your man’ appointed as Education and Skills Manager at York Potash?
If there was any huge issue over Planning Permission then, IMVHO, we would know about it by now. Like GK, I also think that this will be approved first time.
- “An excellent interveiwer too, asking all the right questions so fraser can give all the right answers! it was almost a double act.”
Again, the inference that York Potash has the planning sewn up, with a little help from its friends.
Now, some good news for the Sirius share dealers:
- “A nice 900,000-share buy at 26.74p just gone through…… promptly followed by a delayed 250k @ 26.7p and another 258,100 @ 26.84p.”
And a chance to celebrate:
- “I’m looking forward to meeting those attending Sunday’s meeting at the Vines, Lime Street, Liverpool. I’ve noted three attendees todate; Chrisall, Birdi2 and Secretsqu.
- It’s not a pub I know, so I’ve no idea how hard it’s going to be to spot Sirius investors – part from their large grins as they contemplate their 2013 gains !
- Are you planning to have a card on your table, identifying yourselves, or is it a case of approaching any likely looking bunch and introducing myself?
- You three may well already know each other by sight. Any distinguishing features which will aid identification? I’m sixty and will be wearing a long, brown leather coat.
- See you Sunday,
Clearly the Sirius investors believe the Planning Process is a mere formality and the project is “too big” to be rejected by the “desk jockeys” at the NYMNPA.
After all, any objections are only ‘Small Town Politics’.
However, Sirius Minerals ‘major asset’ is the York Potash project, with a proposal of sinking two mine shafts with underground winding towers within the mine head, to extract potash from two deep polyhalite seams which lie beneath the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, extending eastward underneath the North Sea. Once extracted the mineral would be transported along pipelines for processing on Teesside.
Currently, York Potash is seeking consent for the proposed development from four separate authorities:
- The North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority – to consider the mine head at Dove’s Nest Farm and the extraction of the mineral resource beneath the National Park.
- The National Infrastructure Directorate – to consider the pipeline
- The Marine Management Organisation – to consider the extraction of potash from beneath the sea
- Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council - to consider the processing and port facilities.
According to the NYMNP web site:
“Pre-application discussions between York Potash and the National Park Authority are continuing and it was anticipated that a planning application would be submitted before the end of 2012. The Authority has entered into a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) with York Potash which sets out a timetable for determining the planning application within the statutory 16 week time limit for large scale EIA developments.”
Sirius Minerals and the York Potash project is investor-led; they are relying on investors to finance the project through the selling of shares, and bulling up the prospects of the share price increasing.
Once the planning permission is granted, the investors are expecting a spike in value.
Whilst shares are traded globally and the dealers speculate their fortunes within their remote high-tech dealer rooms, and discuss Small Town Politics on their internet forums, mocking the Local Authorities, the local media and indeed anyone who raises any concerns.
Perhaps their confidence remains buoyant because of their remoteness to the project and the reportedly successful outcome of York Potash’s cynical Public Consultation process.
That, and the two years of having the NYMNPA Planning people “‘Working with them’ A.K.A. helping them to ensure a successful outcome within 16 weeks.”
As a local community, with both residents and visitors within and without the North Yorkshire Moor National Park, we are right now depending and relying on the integrity and credibility of our NYMNP Authority to protect and preserve our culture, heritage and natural environment.
Clearly the Investors of the Potash Project have shown little respect for this Authority.
I do hope, however, that perhaps they may have underestimated ‘Small Town Politics’.
The next Planning Committee Meeting of the NYMNPA will take place at:
The National Park Office,
The Old Vicarage,
On Thursday 17 January 2013, at 10am.
Director of Planning is Chris France. There is also a Chris France who is referred to on the Investors discussions forum. It may be the same Chris France.
The NYMNPA states that:
“York Potash are working in partnership. Other organisations including the Environment Agency and Natural England will be closely involved in consideration of the proposals.”
Relevant Planning Policy:
“The National Park is afforded the highest level of landscape protection and central government policy as set out in Paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework 2012 (the Major Development Test) applies to proposals for large developments such as the proposed new potash mine.
The Major Development Test states that planning permission for such developments should be refused except in exceptional circumstances where it can be demonstrated that they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of the need for the development and the cost of and scope for developing elsewhere. There should also be an assessment of any detrimental effects on the environment and the extent to which they could be moderated.
Core Policy E, Minerals of the Authority’s Core Strategy and Development Policies DPD (November 2008) confirms that proposals for minerals developments (apart from stone quarrying for local needs) will be considered against the Major Development Test.”
Please note that most of the SOP produced will be going to China, which is where most of the money for the development has come from (they already have well established links with Sino Agri).
- IF THIS IS TRUE, THEN THE PROPOSAL WOULD NOT MEET THE ‘MAJOR DEVELOPMENT TEST.
“The Authority is not in a position to give a view on the proposals or the proposed location for a new mine at this stage. When the planning application is submitted, the Authority will make an objective and rigorous assessment of the proposals and will consult other bodies to decide whether exceptional circumstances exist and whether the mine could be located outside the National Park. The Authority will carefully assess the potential economic benefits as well as the environmental impacts before reaching any decision.”
Going back to the Sirius Investors forum:
- “Must admit I don’t really follow why the UK needs two polyhalite mines. Boulby has a billion tonnes of Polyhalite, existing shafts, existing mine head ,not in a national park.
- The constraint on sales will be the market’s ability to absorb the stuff not production. The response that SXX seams are richer and therefore cheaper to mine does not convince. That is a benefit only for SXX shareholders if the mine opens and is no concern of the planning authority.”
- If the NYMNPA refuse planning permission, Sirius Minerals and York Potash will take their proposal to the Secretary of State; much, it would seem, to the annoyance of many of the Investor commenters, who expect Planning Permissions to be granted at NYMNP stage as 85 – 90% likely.
On a more positive note, York Potash has now submitted a formal request for an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Screening and Scoping Opinion.
This is the first stage of the process which will consider the potential environmental impact of the development of a new mine and the Authority has issued a Screening Opinion that the proposals would be Schedule 2 EIA development.
Details of all documents submitted to the NID can be seen here (including the latest scoping results dated 17.12.12).
And so in this ‘Small Town Politics’ area of North Yorkshire, I believe there are a few issues that remain to be discussed:
- Any person or body which has a financial interest in Sirius Minerals or York Potash, or associated companies (including local land-owning beneficiaries) should NOT participate in any stage of the decision making/planning process, and all such interests should be declared.
- Any Section 106 agreements with the National Park and any possible changes thereto, to more amenable conditions for the mine, should be openly stated.
- A statement should be issued regarding what they actually propose to do with the void space.
- Finance – perhaps left to the Sirius investors:
“Boss, Project risk free NPV of $2.6bn on first shovel, equates to approx 120p/sh (however with expected dilutive slice to ‘partner’ to raise $100 – 150m working cash, that goes down to say, 90p).
Project will still have some risk when shovel ready, so I see 70p as realistic at that point. What’s needed between here and there?
2/ Inicated to go in PFS,
3/ Finance – combination of partner money and securities (dependant on 1 & 2).
With first ask PP having a high sucess probability (I put it at 85 – 90%, you 95%) and SM11 being between the best 3 wells – note Sirius having the summer 2D seismic data plus historics guiding the DN site choice – I give that a 98% probability of having enough poly to get indicated and PFS (mind you, I have a theory about why indicated didn’t happen earlyer with SM9 and it will be ‘certain’ with SM11).
Then, there remains a large 60%ish (today sp to shovel ready est. risked NPV price, ie 27p-70p) risk discount still being applied by the market, so from the above it seems that it’s the final proviso – the financing probability – that is detering the market most ….. “
“Ted Hawbaker – I guess we won’t be selling him any Pot Ash lol”
“A Sirius Attempt”
“(Wooly Bully) Job’s a good’un”