First Sirius Minerals tunnel boring machine arrives

Part unloaded Image copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Image caption The cutter head of the machine was one of the first parts to be unloaded at AV Dawson's Heavy Lift Port in Middlesbrough

The first of three tunnel boring machines which will create a 23-mile (37km) long tunnel for the extraction of mined fertiliser has arrived.

Sirius Minerals plan to transport up to 10 million tonnes of polyhalite a year from Whitby to Redcar.

The main parts of the 1,800-tonne boring machine arrived on Teesside after seven days en route from Germany.

Children in Redcar and Cleveland will choose the machine's name when it starts boring later in the year.

Polyhalite is a naturally occurring fertiliser which will be taken by an underground conveyor belt from the mine near Whitby to a processing plant near the former Redcar steelworks.

Image copyright Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Image caption The cutter head was then loaded on to a lorry to be driven to the machine's assembly point at Wilton

The tunnel is being created by contractors who worked on the 35-mile Gotthard Base Tunnel in the Alps.

A spokesman said the firm had recruited 400 workers, three-quarters of them from the Teesside area.

A further 900 people are building the mine which is expected to employ 2,500 when it opens fully in 2024.

Image copyright Sirius Minerals
Image caption Parts were driven in convoy through Middlesbrough

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 20ft (6m) wide tunnel.

Each machine will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, lining the tunnel with concrete segments as they go.

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