New Brunswick

Atlantic Potash Corp. pitches $350M fertilizer plant

Saint John has agreed to option 40 hectares of land to the Atlantic Potash Corp as a part of the company's plan to buiild a $350-million fertilizer production facility in the McAllister Industrial Park.

Saint John will option 40 hectares to Atlantic Potash for 2 years

Saint John has agreed to option 40 hectares of land to the Atlantic Potash Corp. as part of the company’s plan to build a $350-million fertilizer production facility in the McAllister Industrial Park.

Atlantic Potash is trying to develop a potash mine in the Millstream area, near Norton, and the proposed fertilizer production facility is an extension of the company’s plan.

Keith Attoe, a director with Atlantic Potash, said his company is looking forward to working with the city on developing two specialty fertilizer plants in the McAllister Industrial Park.

Atlantic Potash Corp. announced plans to build a $350-million fertilizer facility in Saint John on Monday. (Atlantic Potash Corp.)

Attoe told councillors on Monday night if the project moves forward, the facility would employ 570 full-time workers and 1,200 people during the construction phase.

The city has agreed to option the land to Atlantic Potash for two years and if the project goes ahead the company will pay $1.9 million for the property.

Saint John Mayor Mel Norton said the arrangement with the company could yield long-term benefits for the city.

"If the potential is met it will be a wonderful development for the city. It will employ hundreds of people," Norton said.

The city will also discuss a separate arrangement that could see the company purchase the sugar refinery site.

Atlantic Potash Corp. signed a two-year agreement with the Department of Natural Resources in December 2011 to explore the Millstream potash deposit.

In July 2012, the company posted a notice on its website that it was still reviewing seismic images from previous exploration activities. The company said a mine could create 16,700 direct and indirect jobs during construction and 900 direct and indirect jobs once the mine is operating.

In February 2012, the possibility of a "downstream manufacturing" project was raised by the chairperson of Enterprise Saint John in a public meeting. At the time, Attoe would not comment on the possibility specifically but said the company was working on "potential opportunities."

Fertilizer facility not contingent on mine

Premier David Alward, Natural Resources Minister Bruce Northrup and Keith Attoe, co-chief executive officer of Atlantic Potash Corp., signed a two-year deal for potash exploration rights for the Millstream deposit in 2011. (Government of New Brunswick)

Attoe also said the facility is not contingent on the Millstream mine going ahead.

He told the city politicians the two crucial elements for the project are access to natural gas and an abundance of on-site water.

"We have to do a labour force availability study and … there's a lot of due diligence that has to be done. But it's not contingent on the mine," he said.

Attoe said the company can bring potash in by ship from Russia or buy it from the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan in Penobsquis.

He said the city is an ideal spot for the fertilizer facility because a large workforce is available.

"The production facilities, because there's kilns involved, are a 24 hours a day, seven days a week facility. And so we need to work really around the clock and seven days a week," he said.

The news of a possible fertilizer facility comes at a time when Saint John’s unemployment rate is hovering close to 10 per cent.

The city’s unemployment rate was 9.9 per cent in January. However, the unemployment rate in the St. Stephen-Saint John region increased to 10.7 per cent in January, according to Statistics Canada.

There has also been a significant amount of chatter in recent weeks about the possibility of a west-to-east pipeline bringing crude oil from western Canada to the Irving Oil Ltd. refinery in Saint John.

Premier David Alward travelled to Alberta in February to drum up support for the idea.

The project has the possibility of creating 2,000 jobs during the construction phase of the pipeline and a few hundred refining jobs after, according to some estimates.