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Australia's richest woman inks UK potash mine deal...

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Shares in Sirus Minerals rallied by over 5%, on the news that it has attracted up to $300m of funding for a massive potash mine in the UK.

Sirus has signed a financing deal with Hancock Prospecting, the Australian mineral giant owned by Australian billionaire Gina Rinehart.

The deal comes as Ms Rinehart's other new agricultural venture, a bid on a huge cattle station in Australia, faces unwelcome competition.

Under the terms of the agreement, Hancock British Holdings will receive 5.0% of the profits on the first 13m tonnes of fertiliser produced every year, a 1.0% from all additional sales.

Sirus will receive $250m, and Hancock will also acquire $50mln-worth of Sirius shares.

The deal will be dependent on additional funding for the development being secured.

Massive reserves

The mine, based in North Yorkshire, is expected to have a capacity of up to 20m tonnes of polyhalite a year, with the total size of the reserves estimated over 2bn tonnes.

Compared to muriate of potash, the most common type of potash used in agriculture, polyhalite has lower potassium levels, but is richer in other plant nutrients such as sulphur, magnesium, and calcium.

This makes direct comparison between global potash demand, seen at around 60m tonnes this year, and the capacity at the York mine, difficult.

The polyhalite will be marketed as a premium product, and tests suggest it is most useful for fruit and vegetable production.

Cattle station gazumped

This is not the first foray into the agricultural space for Ms Rinehart, Australia's richest woman, who has been buying cattle stations in Australia over the past year.

But she faced a setback this week, as she was gazumped in a bidding war for Australian cattle giant S Kidman & Co.

A joint-venture from Ms Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, and a Chinese real estate company, was been topped by an offer from a consortium of Australian ranching families on Tuesday.

By William Clarke

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