New Brunswick

Millstream potash mine unlikely, says PotashCorp

The president of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is not optimistic about the possibility of a new potash mine in Millstream, despite the provincial government's exploration deal with Atlantic Potash Corp.

The president of the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan is not optimistic about the possibility of a new potash mine in Millstream, near Apohaqui.

Atlantic Potash Corp. recently signed a three-year agreement with the provincial government to explore the feasibility of building a mine in Millstream.

The City of Saint John has also been in talks with the company about building a potash-related facility — a fertilizer manufacturing plant — at the McAllister Industrial Park. Potash is the key ingredient in crop fertilizer.

But Garth Moore, the president of PotashCorp., says if the Millstream potash deposit was viable, his company would already be mining the site.

"We determined that the ore body itself was not feasible to mine," he told CBC News.

"And the Mosaic company, which is the second largest potash company in North America, looked at it as well. They came to the same conclusion.

"We decided not to follow it. If it would have been good, we would have had it," Moore said.

The proposed Millstream mine and Saint John manufacturing facility would both depend on the size of the potash deposit and whether it can be mined easily, officials have said.

Saint John terminal may expand

Meanwhile, PotashCorp is making plans to expand its terminal operations at the Port of Saint John, said Moore.

The company is building a $1.67-billion mine near Sussex that will more than double production from the existing mine once it is fully operational in 2015.

The vast majority of its product is currently shipped through the Saint John port’s Courtenay Bay potash terminal.

But the terminal will have to expand to accommodate the new Picadilly mine, which will produce an estimated two million tonnes of potash, Moore said.

"We want to get some thoughts together. Then we'll have some public meetings," said Moore, who was in the city Wednesday to speak to a business audience.

He hopes to hold public information meetings later this year, he said.

Moore would not say how much the terminal would grow, but he did suggest loading might be transferred across from the Courtenay Bay side to the main port.

"We may want to look somewhere down the road at being able to load larger vessels, some Panamax-sized vessels," he said.

"We may have to go to the other side, to the port side to do it. You can't do it in Courtenay Bay."

Additional rail track would also have to be added to the terminal, he said.

Millstream 'exciting opportunity'

The Millstream potash deposit is the only remaining confirmed potash deposit in the province that has yet to be commercially developed, Premier David Alward has said.

Developing a new mine would mean hundreds of jobs and generate much-needed revenue to help pay for health care, education and other public services, he has said, calling it an exciting opportunity for the province.

Under the deal, Atlantic Potash Corp. will invest $4.5 million to explore the deposit and if it’s deemed economically viable, the company must submit a development plan by the end of the third year.

The area in question, located between the Parleeville Road and Highway 121 near Apohaqui, was previously explored by British Petroleum Resources Canada in the 1980s and by International Minerals and Chemicals in the mid-1990s.

About 256 million tonnes of potash was discovered, but the deposit was considered relatively small compared to other areas, such as Cassidy Lake and Penobsquis, which have since been developed.

The known deposit was also considered complex for the mining technology of the day due to the other minerals present, but the technology has changed considerably.

Meanwhile, the demand for potash, which is used in fertilizer and agriculture products, has jumped, along with the price.