Nutrien 'absolutely not' shutting down Sask. mines right now, says CEO

Nutrien CEO Chuck Magro says phasing out some of the company’s less-profitable potash mines is “absolutely not” being considered by the company under current market conditions, despite recent comments from its potash vice-president suggesting closures could be considered.

Company VP of potash recently said Nutrien looking at all options to reach $500M savings goal

Nutrien CEO Chuck Magro says the company is not considering closing any of its less-profitable mines right now because demand for potash is increasing and there are plans to increase production by three per cent. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Nutrien CEO Chuck Magro says phasing out some of the company's less-profitable potash mines is "absolutely not" being considered by the company under current market conditions, despite recent comments from its potash vice-president suggesting closures could be considered.

During the company's fourth quarter financial call earlier this week, the company said it was looking at all options to reach $500 million US in savings by the end of 2019.

"In the short term, we need the six [Saskatchewan mines] running," said Raef Sully, Nutrien's executive vice-president of potash during the call.

"We'll look at that halfway through the year and see what the second half does."

But Magro told reporters at a news conference at the Saskatoon Food Bank on Thursday closures are not being considered under current conditions.

"You never want to take any option off the table," he said.

"I don't predict demand, I don't have a silver ball in terms of what's going to happen when it comes to demand globally but with what we can see today — absolutely not.

"Our plans are going to be very similar to last year, in fact we're going to produce more potash this year than we did last year."

Magro said the company expected to achieve its $500-million savings goal through new retail opportunities presented by the recent Agrium and PotashCorp merger.

"Part of the $500 million operating synergies has no rationalization when it comes to shutting down a potash mine. What it has to do is optimizing the six [mines]," he said.

"Now that we have our retail business, which is a $13-billion business operating in seven countries, we're able to move more of our potash through our own channels and that will create a lot of value and a big part of that $500 million."

He said the company plans to produce three per cent more tonnes of potash in 2018 than in 2017.

With files from CBC's Bridget Yard