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ICL UK (previously called Cleveland Potash) is investing close to £90 million to become the first producer in the world to supply farmers with a new polysulphate fertiliser which will supplement its already strong potash and salt offering. At the same time it has a strong commitment to investing in its staff, with a comprehensive training programme to give them the skills needed for the highly-sophisticated mining operations.
Set alongside the North Yorkshire coast, the Boulby mine accounts for roughly half of the UK’s entire potash output and is now leading the world in the production of polyhalite, a unique mineral salt which can be used as a fertilizer. It is comprised of calcium, magnesium and potassium sulphates, each of which is important for crop development, and is low in chlorine which makes it suitable for use with sensitive crops.
Managing Director David Zvida outlined the significance of the geological studies which, indicated that more than a billion tons of polyhalite ore are located beneath the potash deposits.
“We saw that polyhalite offered an exciting new future for the mine. We have been producing limited amounts over recent years and are now following this up with an investment of £38 million, split between specialist mining equipment, constructing a dedicated crushing and screening plant on the surface and constructing domes for Poly storage at the Tees Dock.
“Immediately after this is completed we will be constructing a £45 million granulation plant, aiming to convert up to 50 percent of the final product to a granular form which will open up the market opportunities.”
Capitalising on its exclusive access to a unique and potentially revolutionary new fertiliser has not come without risk to the company Zvida recognised the challenge of persuading some farmers to adopt a new fertiliser after so many decades of potash use, but his confidence in the product shone through when he revealed his goals for future production, with the company’s decades of experience in the sector had providing the perfect base for this expansion.
“At the close of 2014, we finished with a total of 130,000 tonnes; this year our efforts have enabled us to budget for 225,000. The plan for 2016 is 400,000 tonnes, 2017, 500,000 tonnes and, in 2018, 600,000 tonnes. This investment will be sufficient to make profit in our five-year years plan--if we want to we can increase the quantities due to the flexibility of our investment, and we want to eventually move to 3 million tonnes.”
Even before the discovery and development of its polyhalite reserves ICL UK (Cleveland Potash) had an enviable position in the European fertiliser market due in no small part to how the company is structured. As the main UK operation of Israel Chemicals Ltd (ICL) the company can directly sell its products to a global audience
David Zvida explained: “We use ICL’s global marketing and selling unit so we can look at sales of all ICL Potash across the world and we see together how we divide it between customers.
We have a global purchasing and procurement team, as well as a global quality unit and we have been moving towards shared services.
“We feel that we aren’t alone; we have departments that can help us with any issue including finance, marketing HR, quality issues, or procurement.”
Being part of the ICL group of companies not only provides a distinct advantage for the business as a unit, but also for its individual workers, Zvida said.
“Being part of a group helps some of our team who want progress or want to move to other roles in ICL It gives them more flexibility and mo0re opportunity, we often relocate people and move them around ICL’s companies. I myself moved from ICL Dead Sea to be the Managing Director of ICL UK.”
External Affairs & Security Manager David McLuckie underlines that this flexibility is part of a larger initiative aimed at improving the wellbeing and capabilities of workers at the mine
“We have a constant training programme covering every aspect of the work we do. For example we have regular training around new software on computers to make our jobs faster and easier. Every one of our miners has to undergo refresher training.
“Our approach goes above and beyond most companies, constantly upskilling and investing in our people. Indeed we have taken somebody who’s got no qualifications and put them through a university degree.”
With a firm commitment to making a positive environmental impact through its operations, Cleveland Potash goes above and beyond the requirements for its ISO: 14001 accreditation.
David Zvida said “We review this with an external audit twice a year. We have a department that takes care of all of our ISOs. Every month we review incidents regarding the environment and safety, with clear conclusions and recommendations.
David MLuckie emphasised the large-scale socio-economic impact the company has on the area: “We put roughly £140 million into the local economy in terms of goods and services. We did a study where it was proven that we are directly responsible for over 2,500 jobs in the area.”
The discovery of up to a billion tonnes of polyhalite deposits could not have happened under the watch of a better company; Cleveland Potash has proven through its deft management of its operations that not only does it have the courage to make a serious investment, but is also willing to ensure that the benefits of this find are adequately shared with its employees and the local area.