Vern Evans, Mike Mayhew, Rich Saccany, Bob Rappolt,
Development of the Saskatchewan Potash Mines
Vern Evans, Mike Mayhew, Stantec Consulting
E–Mail: Mike.Mayhew@stantec.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Saskatchewan is well known for farming but in 1943 while exploring for oil, potash was discovered at a depth of almost two kilometers. This initial discovery was near the town of Radville, 150 km. South of Regina. Three years later a core sample from an exploratory well near Unity revealed high grade potash at a depth of about one kilometer. The initial attempt to gain access to the potash beds, through the overlying strata containing high pressure water, ended in failure. However, subsequent attempts were successful and Saskatchewan produced its first potash in 1959 – becoming a steady supplier in 1962.
Canada is the world’s largest producer of potash with an annual production exceeding 11,000,000 tons K2 O. Potash ( KCl ) can be colorless, white bluish or red and 95% of world production is used for fertilizer.
There are presently ten potash mines in Saskatchewan – nine conventional mines and one solution mine. Current ownership has Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan with five mines, Mosaic with four and Agrium with one.
Shaft sinking techniques, employed for developing the potash mines, were new to Canada; techniques involving freezing of the water bearing sections of the shafts, plus the installation of watertight lining in the water bearing zones. Shaft lining design involved the use of either tubbing or a welded steel and concrete composite lining.
Between the period of 1955 and 1971 fifteen mine shafts were sunk in the Saskatchewan potash basin. One additional shaft was sunk in the 1970s.
The Saskatchewan potash industry employs over 6,000 people in both direct and indirect jobs and generates revenues in excess of $2.7 billion.