New Sask. potash mine will slash water use, eliminate tailings waste, says CEO

Construction is set to begin this year on a Saskatchewan potash mine with a far smaller environmental footprint than industry norms, according to the company's CEO.

Sask Environmental Society official says he'll be watching developments at the Tugaske mine site near Regina

Gensource Potash says it will begin construction on its 'modular unit' this year near the village of Tugaske, roughly 150 kilometres northwest of Regina. The company says it will be the first Saskatchewan mine to produce no tailings ponds, and will also use far less water than other mines. (Gensource Potash)

Construction is set to begin this year on a Saskatchewan potash mine with a far smaller environmental footprint than industry norms, according to the company's CEO.

"We really believe this is the beginning of a new era of potash production. This will be the way potash is produced in the future," Gensource CEO Mike Ferguson said.

The Tugaske potash mine, located roughly 150 kilometres northwest of Regina, will use far less water than others, Ferguson said. A typical mine of this type requires four kilograms of water to produce one kilogram of potash, but Tusaske Tugaske will need only about 1.5 kilograms. This will be accomplished through new technology and more extensive water recycling, he said.

The Tugaske potash mine, set to begin construction this year, will be the first Saskatchewan mine with no tailings or brine ponds, says the company. (Gensource Potash)

Ferguson said new technology will also allow Tugaske to become the first potash mine in Saskatchewan with no tailings ponds. These often-massive surface level structures are used to store the salt and other waste products brought to the surface with the potash.

A typical mine of this type brings up two kilograms of salt waste for every kilogram of potash produced. The technology used at Tugaske will separate the potash before it's brought to the surface, Ferguson said.

He said the new measures are good for their profits, but will also be good for the environment.

"Technology comes along and changes things," he said. "We don't use steam engines any more."

Ferguson said construction will only take two years, in part because of the Tugaske's smaller scale. It's expected to produce 250,000 tonnes of potash per year, compared with larger mines that produce millions.

Gensource Potash CEO Mike Ferguson said a new Saskatchewan mine will have a far smaller environmental footprint than comparable operations. (Gensource Potash)

Meanwhile, BHP is going ahead with its Jansen potash mine, which would be the world's largest, east of Saskatoon. An BHP official sent along company information stating Jansen will also decrease water use significantly — as much as 60 per cent — but there didn't appear to be any information on tailings.

No one from Saskatchewan's largest producer, Nutrien, could be reached for comment.

Saskatchewan Environmental Society vice president Robert Halliday said water use and salt waste are two of the big concerns with potash mines. He said the Tugaske project, "certainly sounds interesting."

Halliday noted Gensource also plans to generate power on site, which will further improve the environmental footprint.

"It appears that they are considering some good things," Halliday said.

He said he'll be watching as it develops and hopes any improvements will be adopted across the industry.


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