The Canadian government has offered up to $100 million to help Australian mining giant BHP create the “world’s most sustainable potash mine” in rural Saskatchewan.
BHP’s Jansen Mine Project, located approximately 140 kilometers east of Saskatoo, is currently under development and is expected to be operational by 2027. It is expected to be the largest potash-producing mine in the world.
Canadian officials are putting the money forward to help the company reduce the mine’s carbon footprint and invest in more environmentally friendly technology.
The company said it was committed to reducing its emissions.
“You will see 50% less carbon dioxide coming out of this mine than a traditional potash mine. We are committed to using water responsibly, we will use 60% less water than your average mine in terms of production potash on a ton-per-ton basis,” said Ragnar Udd, president of Minerals America at BHP, at the federal funding announcement in Saskatoon Monday morning.
“We expect Jansen to generate the lowest direct-site emissions intensity of any potash mine in North America.”
Udd said BHP expects to use 60% less underground equipment for the Jansen mine, while being 2.5 times more productive.
It will also introduce electric vehicles for underground work, reducing diesel emissions. The funding will help the mine be more technically advanced, adopting “state-of-the-art” integrated mining systems to drill and bring minerals to the surface, Udd said.
Potash is a potassium-rich salt used primarily as a fertilizer by farmers.
Federal officials said on Monday that the government’s partnership with BHP should benefit the environment and the economy, while addressing growing global food security concerns and shortages.
Mike Henry, CEO of BHP, noted that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had disrupted the global potash supply and stressed the need for a more stable supplier.
Russia and Ukraine are major fertilizer producing countries. Henry said Canada is seen as a stable jurisdiction that can meet growing global demand for years to come.
“We believe the need for potash is going to be driven by global population growth, the desire to improve diets and the need for more sustainable agriculture,” he said.
BHP committed to the Jansen Stage 1 project last year with an investment of $7.5 billion – a decision, according to Henry, that took a decade. He said the company’s commitment to potash mining in Canada is a vote of confidence for the country.
The company expects its initial production capacity to be 4.3 to 4.5 million tonnes of potash per year, which will increase Canadian production of this mineral by nearly 22%.
Federal Industry Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Canada exported 22 million tonnes of potash last year and, like Henry, he believes demand will only increase.
In addition to its green ambitions, officials note that the project is expected to create hundreds of local jobs. BHP has also signed Opportunity Agreements with six First Nations in southern Saskatchewan to increase economic opportunities and partnerships.
Henry said BHP is accelerating work on phase one and initiating studies for phase two.