Saskatchewan

Critics of Yancoal potash mine want project slowed down

A group that includes environmentalists, opposition politicians and landowners is raising concerns about a proposed potash mine north of Regina.

Solution mine would use millions of cubic metres of water annually

Environmental activist Jim Harding says the Yancoal potash project cannot be allowed to proceed if it means sacrificing the prairie habitat. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

A group that includes environmentalists, opposition politicians and landowners is raising concerns about a proposed potash mine north of Regina.

Yancoal, which is owned by the government of China, wants to build a solution mine, which would use millions of cubic metres of water each year to dissolve the potash.

Jim Harding, an environmentalist with the Qu'Appelle Valley Environmental Association who lives downstream of the proposed mine, says the Qu'Appelle Valley watershed is already in a fragile state.

"Everything from surface water, pesticide, fertilizer, Regina untreated sewage, road impacts on wetlands," Harding said.

"We need to start to care about our environment."

Harding says the project cannot be allowed to go ahead if it means sacrificing the Prairie habitat. He said an extension to the period of public feedback should be extended beyond today's deadline. 

Company says project has many supporters

Robin Kusch, spokesperson for Yancoal, said there are many local people who want the project to go ahead.

"You can't ignore the fact that there are community members and communities that are supportive of the project," Kusch said.

"You can't ignore the fact that people see the potential positive benefits; not just royalties or taxes but spinoff economy in terms of contracts for vending and supplying goods to the project. Plus you have employment that would be associated with it."

Kusch said Yancoal also hopes to work closely with those who do not support the project.

Yancoal spokesperson, Robin Kusch, says the project also has a great deal of local support. (Mike Zartler/CBC)

"Accommodating the people who are opposed to the project going forward will be the key to the success of this project," Kusch said. "We have to work with them to minimize the negative impacts to their communities and then work with them to optimize the positives."

Government still reviewing potash mine

The provincial government said it has already extended its time period for public consultation from 30 days to 45. Today will be the final day for the government to accept feedback. 

Sharla Hordenchuk, with the provincial environment ministry, said the government has a rigorous assessment process to consider all of the concerns it receives.

"Our technical reviewers will look at the quality of information that's been provided and we will ensure that the concerns that are raised are addressed adequately to ensure that the environment remains protected," Hordenchuk said. 

Hordenchuk could not say how long that process may take before the government makes a decision on the project.

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