Jobs secured as rescue deal agreed for Yorkshire-based Sirius Minerals

A rescue deal has been approved for Sirius Minerals Credit: Sirius Minerals/PA

An ambitious local mining project under the North York Moors - to extract a fertiliser compound - has been rescued by a big international conglomerate.

Shareholders in Sirius, many of them local small investors, accepted a rescue deal from Anglo American at a significant loss - to keep the project in business.

The huge tunnelling system could eventually provide jobs for 2,000 people.

Following a tense investor meeting in London on Tuesday morning, the stock markets closed with shareholders remaining in the dark over the result.

The vote, meeting and long wait came after Sirius failed to raise the funds it needed for a fertiliser mine, forcing the board to recommend the £405 million rescue package.

Typically, a delayed result suggests the numbers are too close to call.

Announcing the result shortly after 8.30pm, Sirius said the resolutions had been passed “by the requisite majorities”.

Sirius chair Russell Scrimshaw said: “The positive outcome from today’s meeting secures a return for shareholders, and provides greater certainty in terms of safeguarding the project, protecting the jobs of our employees, and allowing the community, region and the UK to continue to benefit from the project.”

Shareholders who attended the meeting at the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London were told without supporting the deal, the company would collapse.

Sirius chair Russell Scrimshaw conducted the tense meeting. Credit: Tony Bartholomew/Sirius/PA

They were being asked to vote in favour of the 5.5p per share offer, despite some paying as much as 25p a share when the company was growing.

But before the votes – which were recorded on pieces of paper handed out at the start of the meeting – several angry investors voiced their concerns to the board.

The anger came despite a major push by the UK suitor to win over families across the region in support of the deal.

Shareholders, a large proportion of whom are small individual investors rather than big institutions, stood to lose out heavily.

Many had bought their shares for as much as 25p, sinking their life savings into the project.

However, the board said that the deal was the only offer on the table and shareholders could lose everything if they did not vote for it, with liquidation or administration the most likely outcome.

One frustrated shareholder in attendance said he felt like “we’re having a gun put to our head”.

Mr Scrimshaw admitted it was a difficult time for all concerned, adding he was “disappointed at the abusive language” that he had read online before the meeting.

The mine could eventually provide jobs for 2,000 people. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

As a result of this, security at the Honourable Artillery Company was beefed up at Sirius’s request, with strict searches, a ban on computers and tablets in force, and sniffer dogs in attendance.

If the company had gone into liquidation, investors were unlikely to get anything back, directors said.

The deal would give them 5.5p for every share they own.

Several shareholders had questioned why the meeting was being held in London, and not around Yorkshire where most of the company’s thousands of retail investors are.

Around 85,000 small shareholders had at one point put their money into Sirius.

During the meeting the board, which had backed the bid, was branded “stubborn and righteous” by one shareholder, while another called the offer an “insult”.

Several investors questioned if Anglo American could have offered more for the business.

But the board also won support from some shareholders for what was a tricky choice, with one shareholder saying “it is only delaying the inevitable if we vote no today”.