As Anglo American fights back in bid war, 1,100 jobs at potash mine face the axe

  • Mining giant concedes there will be an ‘impact on headcount’ 
  • Boss Duncan Wanblad announced Anglo would slash spending at the project 
  • Sources said that 80% of the 1,400 staff who work on-site could face the axe 

Anglo American last night admitted that jobs will go at its Yorkshire potash mine.

The mining giant conceded there will be an ‘impact on headcount’ – days after chief executive Duncan Wanblad announced it would slash spending at the Woodsmith fertiliser project near Whitby.

Sources told the Mail that 80 per cent of the 1,400 staff who work on-site could face the axe. That would amount to 1,120 jobs.

The cuts to investment at Woodsmith are part of a huge restructuring plan unveiled by Wanblad as he desperately tries to fend off a takeover by the company’s larger rival BHP.

The plans include offloading its De Beers diamond business as well as its South African platinum arm and its coking coal and nickel operations.

Cuts: Anglo American has admitted that jobs will go at its Yorkshire potash mine

Cuts: Anglo American has admitted that jobs will go at its Yorkshire potash mine

Anglo has turned down two bids so far – valuing it at £31billion and £34billion – and Australian giant BHP has until Wednesday to table another offer.

The job cuts at Woodsmith will be a bitter blow to the local community and will add to fears that the future of the project is at risk.

Many hoped the mine – which will dig up an unusual type of fertiliser known as polyhalite, which contains potash – would reinvigorate the area and be a key employer.

Wanblad’s survival plan will see the company focus on its lucrative copper and iron ore mines – as well as retain the Woodsmith project.

However, despite insisting Anglo is ‘committed’ to the project, Wanblad said it would spend just £160m on Woodsmith next year and nothing at all in 2026. It previously planned to spend £800m each year.

Choking off investment also means that the first extraction of fertiliser from the mine, which was due in 2027, is likely to be pushed back.

Anglo wants to make a final investment decision on the project before ploughing in any more cash – and also wants to find another investor to share the cost.

The scale of the project is one of the major challenges, as it involves digging two shafts that are a mile deep and building a 23-mile tunnel – which is longer than the Channel Tunnel – under the North York Moors National Park to avoid damaging the landscape. Anglo expects it to cost £7billion.

Anglo bought Woodsmith for £405m in 2020 after the company, then known as Sirius Minerals, teetered on the brink of collapse.

Sirius was a stock market darling for years but its share price collapsed after it failed to secure a crucial funding package. This wiped out the nest eggs and pension pots of some 85,000 individual investors.

Many were locals who wanted to champion the project.

An Anglo spokesman said: ‘Those [job] numbers are entirely based on rumour. We are focused on being transparent with the project teams and our local stakeholders.’

BHP ‘must offer £40billion’ 

BHP will have to raise its bid for Anglo American to £40billion to secure a deal, according to JP Morgan.

The mining giant, known as the ‘Big Australian’, has already seen two takeover proposals worth £31billion and £34billion turned down by the board of its London-listed rival. 

And with the deadline for a firm offer to be tabled coming on Wednesday next week, analysts at the investment bank said it would take a bid of £40billion to win over Anglo bosses and shareholders.

Anglo has said BHP’s earlier bids ‘significantly undervalue’ the business. Speculation is mounting that other bidders may join the fray.

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