BHP's Jansen mine full steam ahead
While the potash at BHP Billiton's Jansen potash mine is still out of reach, the company isn't slowing down to it.
"This was literally a green, wheat field in the summer of 2009," said Gord Graham, deputy project director in charge of subservice at Jansen.
Now, two huge drilling shafts pierce the prairie landscape and 400 workers are on site.
However, the true impact of the mine is still to come.
When finished, Jansen will be the largest potash mine in the world producing eight to 10 million tons per year.
Although BHP has spent $2 billion on Jansen so far, Tim Cutt, president of BHP's diamonds and specialty products, said they still need final approval from the board - which likely won't come until next summer at the earliest.
"It is very important for us to finish the design of the plan, demonstrate the economics to the board and receive that approval. We're updating the board on a regular basis, they understand what we're doing here...They're enthusiastic about the commodity and what that means for the company for the long-term," said Cutt.
Despite a recent report from BMO that said BHP should not go ahead with the Jansen project, Cutt said there are no plans to stop this mine.
The mine has just received a massive piece of German equipment known as the Herrenknecht. It will drill the hole to create the mine. While drilling is due to start in the next couple of weeks, it will take the Herrenknecht a year to reach the potash supply about one kilometre underground.
Then, it will be another two to three years before potash will make it above ground.
"We think by the end of 2015, we should be in the ore body and starting to build the production rooms," said Cutt.
The mine itself, will have a huge underground presence.
"The footprint underground that we'll mine actually is about 18-20 kilometres wide and about 30 kilometres long," he said.
The impact of this mine on surrounding communities will also be huge.
"What it means for Humboldt is we anticipate our population could double in roughly a 10-year period," said Malcolm Eaton, Mayor of Humboldt.
That would take Humboldt's population to around 12,000.
Eaton said the city is preparing for that kind of growth with studies, planners and building new homes.
Humboldt and the other surrounding communities are expected to grow as BHP mandates workers to live in the surrounding communities. BHP does not want all workers living on site or flying in and out.
However, during the construction process, more than 2,500 workers will live in a temporary construction dorms on site. About 500 rooms for those dorms are expected to be finished by December 15. Once all construction is completed in about eight to 10 years, the dorms will be removed and taken to another of BHP's projects.
BHP Billiton is the world's largest mining company and according to BHP, there is a 350-year global supply of potash in Saskatchewan.
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