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Tunnelling machine arrives at Wilton so work can begin on 23 mile tunnel

The tunnelling machine arriving at Wilton International. Photo: ITV News

The first 1,800-tonne tunnel boring machine has arrived at Wilton International on Teesside. It will be used to build a 23 mile tunnel from Teesside to Whitby.

The tunnel will be capable of transporting up to 20 million tonnes of polyhalite, a naturally occurring multi-nutrient crop fertiliser, which will be mined near Whitby.

An underground conveyor belt will connect the new multi-billion pound mine to a purpose built shipping facility in Redcar. From there, the fertiliser will be shipped all around the world.

This video shows exactly how it will be done:

The main parts of the 225-metre-long tunnelling machine arrived at AV Dawson’s Heavy Lift Port on the Teesside Docks on Friday 17, February, after a seven-day journey across road, river and sea, from a specialist factory in western Germany.

It was then transported through Middlesbrough on Saturday 16, February to the Sirius Minerals Construction site at Wilton International, where the machine is to be reassembled.

Four hundred workers have been recruited to excavate the tunnel, with three quarters of them coming from the local area.

The tunnelling machine arriving at Wilton International. Credit: ITV News

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.”

– Gareth Edmunds, External Affairs Director at Sirius Minerals

The machine will bore the first of three separate tunnel drives which will make up the 23 mile tunnel from the mine, near Whitby, to where the fertiliser will be processed on Teesside.

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 six-metre diameter tunnel.

Each tunnelling machine will operate 24 hours a day, 7 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 tonnes of fertiliser per annum by 2024.