K + S Potash on a mission to lead sustainable development


K + S Potash Canada Uses New Strategies To Reduce Energy And Freshwater Consumption

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K + S Potash Canada (KSPC) is on a mission to become leaders in sustainable development in the mining sector. The company’s Bethune mine is Saskatchewan’s first completely new potash mine in the past four decades and officially opened in 2017. KSPC uses modernized technologies and smart approaches to reduce energy consumption and fresh water.


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In addition to its potash mine and production facility in Bethune, KSPC is headquartered in Saskatoon. In addition, a small group of employees work at its handling and warehousing facility in Port Moody, British Columbia. KSPC has approximately 420 employees and 100 contractors in Canada.

KSPC’s parent company – K + S AG – is located in Germany and is listed on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. K + S AG has recently set strategic goals for the future in three areas: people, environment and business ethics.

In Canada, KSPC President and CEO Sam Farris describes K + S sustainability initiatives. According to Farris, K + S is redefining itself after selling its salt business in the Americas for $ 3.2 billion in October 2020, and one of the key pillars of its new strategy is focused on climate goals.

“For us, in extracting potash in solution, we need heat to dissolve the ore. It’s too much heat to use renewable electricity as a source, so we are looking for alternatives to our current source (which is natural gas). After making sure that we are as efficient as possible in our use of this energy, it becomes very difficult to scale down beyond that with the technology currently available, ”said Farris.

The Bethune mine uses a solution extraction method with both primary and secondary phases. The primary phase involves dissolving underground minerals with water to create a brine rich in potash. The brine is treated with evaporation and crystallization technology where potassium chloride is recovered.


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In the secondary phase, K + S uses brine saturated with sodium chloride to selectively dissolve potassium chloride from underground caverns. This saturated brine solution cools naturally using cooling tank technology and is reheated with waste heat from the evaporation and crystallization process. Up to a third of the salt generated is then redeposited in underground caverns instead of tailings piles (these tailings are considered non-hazardous waste).

The two technologies work in symbiosis to maximize ore recovery, minimize salt residue and use of fresh water, and use the available heat generated by the combustion of natural gas to produce steam for the evaporation process. . In addition, the Bethune mine uses cogeneration technology to produce some of its own electricity, using waste heat to produce steam.

“Secondary potash mining is not new to Saskatchewan. At Bethune, with current technology, our production is approximately 75 percent primary extraction and 25 percent secondary. There is still some salt residue, but our footprint diminishes as we grow older, with more and more salt being redeposited underground, ”said Farris.

KSPC is focused on the full life cycle of its Bethune mine. “We have an objective of sustainable and forward-looking development, of protection of local biodiversity and of anticipation in order to manage our impact on the environment. This is a dynamic period – I think the next 20 years will be seen as a period of transition from the best available technology of today to a new energy technology with low or even zero GHG emissions in order to reach our goal of ” have a net zero carbon footprint. In potash mining, we think in decades. For us, the long term would be considered more than 10 years, ”said Farris.


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“We need to make sure that we think about how to provide power, not only for our current operations, but also for our future growth plans. We are thinking about how to meet the challenge of global climate change in an economically sustainable way. There is no doubt that our industry will need government support to help pay for the necessary changes in energy infrastructure to ensure that we can still help feed future generations with Canadian potash and meet our climate goals.

In terms of future initiatives, Farris stresses that K + S will not be limited by 2021 technologies. He says there are two considerations for the future. Number one is technological readiness – is the technology safe, proven, and socially acceptable? The second is the overall cost – can we economically justify a move away from natural gas?

Farris gives the example of nuclear technology and small modular reactors (SMR). While SMRs can generate the large amounts of electricity and heat required for mining, developments in nuclear technology are not rapid. In addition, the construction of a nuclear reactor is a huge undertaking that requires intense regulatory and public consultation.

What is the forecast for the global potash market in 2022? “It’s no secret that we are currently at a peak in the potash cycle and the prices of all crop nutrients are high. The high prices have helped mining companies reinvest and increase royalties for the people of Saskatchewan. We sell potash mined in Bethune to China, Brazil, United States, and Southeast Asian countries. There are always ups and downs in the potash market – it’s rarely boring. In general, I would say activity is starting to pick up in Saskatchewan, ”said Farris.

In fact, 2021 saw potash fertilizer prices hit the highest levels in nearly a decade. It should also be noted that competing potash producers are located in Russia and Belarus, where supply issues and political uncertainties are more common, giving Canada a competitive advantage.

Finally, like other Saskatchewan-based companies, KSPC implements COVID-19 proof of vaccination and testing protocols for its employees and contractors. “The health of our people and our obligation to the well-being of society as a whole guided us towards this decision,” said Farris.



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