A global landmark in mining has been achieved at the Boulby mine in east Cleveland.
During operations last week, the one-millionth tonne of polyhalite was brought to the surface.
The mine, which is owned and operated by Israeli Chemicals, is the only one in the world mining the mineral which is a form of fertilizer that occurs naturally and aids crop growth due to its concentration of potassium, magnesium, sulphur and calcium nutrients.
Mark Elliott, polyhalite production manager, said: “Every man jack in every department has had a part to play in this success.
“Since we started to focus on mining polyhalite in early 2016 everybody has worked to find ways of improving productivity.
“Output has increased to 327,000 tonnes so far this year and we are on target to hoist 450,000 by the year end.”
Of particular note was the contribution made by the engineers to the cutting heads. Polyhalite is so hard that at first some 100 of them had to be replaced per shift.
A redesign has reduced that to between 15 and 20, saving time and enabling each shift to mine more of the mineral.
The increase in productivity is also helping meet the increasing worldwide demand for the product, which is marketed under the trademark ‘Polysulphate’.
As a natural product, it is certified and approved for use in organic farming systems.
Geological studies conducted by ICL Fertilizers indicate that there are deposits amounting to more than a billion tonnes of polyhalite at Boulby.