Saskatchewan

Potash royalties could go to First Nation

A potash mine could someday be built in Saskatchewan with a big difference — millions of dollars in royalties would go to a First Nation, rather than the provincial government.

A potash mine could someday be built in Saskatchewan with a big difference — millions of dollars in royalties would go to a First Nation, rather than the provincial government.

That's because the mine might be built on Muskowekwan First Nation, about 75 kilometres northeast of Regina.

If the $2.4 billion mine becomes reality, it will mean jobs for First Nations members and decades of potash revenues for Muskowekwan, Chief Reg Bellerose says.

"A conservative figure would be about $40-to-$50 million in royalties per year for the Muskowekwan First Nation, for the life of the mine," Bellerose said.

The First Nation is exploring for potash in partnership with Encanto Potash Corp., which is optimistic its search for the pink mineral will pan out.

"We have six holes surrounding it that tell us that there's potash at fairly good grades," said James Walchuck, Encanto president.

The proposed mine would be unique in that any section of it on reserve land would be under federal jurisdiction.

That would mean Ottawa would put any potash royalties into a trust fund for Muskowekwan.

The proposed joint venture to expand exploration is not without controversy on Muskowekwan, however.

A Facebook group of people opposed to the project has formed, with critics citing environmental and other concerns.

Among those raising concerns is Irene Liening, who wonders if people understand the agreement.

"I mean, you have to be a lawyer to understand that joint venture agreement," she said. "As far as I'm concerned, that's illegal, unethical and bogus."

Band members vote on the proposal on Nov. 26.