BETHUNE, Sk. — Shovels hit the dirt when a German fertilizer company held a groundbreaking ceremony in Saskatchewan, but it’s what lies 1,500 metres below the surface that has drawn K+S Group to the province.
K+S officially broke ground Tuesday on the first new potash mine in Saskatchewan in nearly 40 years.
The C$3.25-billion Legacy mine project is near Bethune, about 60 kilometres northwest of Regina.
“People are watching very much what we are doing because we want to build a greenfield mine,” said K+S chairman Norbert Steiner.
“Our time frame is very tight as we want to have the first production available in the year 2015, maybe in the second half, not much, but we should start with that and then ramp it up to 2017 to two million tonnes. And then the secondary mining phase will come along with more.”
Saskatchewan has the world’s largest deposits of potash, a mineral mainly used in fertilizer, and Steiner said the Saskatchewan resource will help feed the world for generations to come.
“This is why we are investing a massive amount of effort, energy and capital into this project,” he said.
“We believe that the Legacy project is an investment in the future of our company, an investment in the people of Saskatchewan and an investment in a sustainable future.”
K+S, the world’s fifth-largest potash producer and No. 1 producer of salt, acquired the project when it bought Vancouver-based Potash One in early 2011. Legacy will occupy only a small area of the property acquired in that deal.
The project is expected to create more than 1,000 jobs during peak construction and employ 300 people when the operation hits full production.
It’s good news for Saskatchewan’s bottom line. The government collects royalty money from companies that develop resources and that has helped fill provincial coffers.
Saskatchewan’s Energy and Resources Minister Tim McMillan put on a hard hat and picked up a shovel at the groundbreaking. He said it may be the first new mine in nearly 40 years, but he hopes it’s not the last.
“We hear about other players in the market that have invested billions of dollars already into potential mines and are yet to make the go-no go decisions. I would think it’s very likely that this isn’t the only (new mine), that there will be several more,” said McMillan.
“We think that we have a great resource. We have a great business environment and there’s a lot of optimism in this industry.”