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Sirius Minerals’ tunnel boring machine arrives at Teesside

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Dry Bulk,

The first 1800 t tunnel boring machine (TBM) that will be used to construct Sirius Minerals’ 23 mile mineral transportation tunnel from Teesside to Whitby (UK), has arrived.

The tunnel will be capable of transporting up to 20 million tpy of polyhalite, a naturally occurring multi-nutrient fertilizer. An underground conveyor belt will connect the company’s new multi-billion pound mine near Whitby, to a purpose-built processing and shipping facility in the shadows of the former Redcar Steelworks. From there, the final product will be shipped to customers all around the world.

The main parts of the 225 m long machine arrived at AV Dawson’s Heavy Lift Port on the Teesside Docks on Friday morning after a seven day journey across road, river and sea, from a specialist factory in Western Germany. They will then move in convoy through Middlesbrough on Saturday morning, to the Sirius Minerals construction site at Wilton International, where the machine will be reassembled.

Children from primary schools across Redcar and Cleveland have been given the opportunity to enter a competition to name the machine. The winning name will be unveiled when the machine starts tunnelling in the second quarter of the year.

Tunnel contractor STRABAG, which also worked on the 35 mile Gotthard Base Tunnel under the Alps, has already recruited 400 workers to excavate the tunnel, with three quarters of them coming from the local area. They are part of a 900-strong workforce currently involved in building the project, a figure that will have grown to 1700 by the time the mine shafts reach first polyhalite in 2021. A further 2500 long-term direct and indirect jobs are expected to be created when the mine is fully operational.

Gareth Edmunds, External Affairs Director at Sirius Minerals said: “The arrival of our first tunnel boring machine represents an exciting milestone for the company and the region. We continue to make good progress delivering our world class project, as we invest in the local area and create jobs and supply chain opportunities.”

The machine will bore the first of three separate tunnel drives, which will make up the 37 km tunnel from the mine, near Whitby, to the Teesside processing facility. Two other machines are planned to be launched in 2020 from Whitby and Lockwood Beck, near Guisborough, to complete the final 15 miles of the 6 m dia. tunnel. Each TBM will operate 24 hr/d, seven days a week, lining the tunnel with concrete segments as they go.

Sirius expect to reach the polyhalite seam in 2021 and to be producing 10 million tpy of fertilizer 2024.

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