Flooding and loss of the Patience Lake potash mine

CIM Bulletin, Vol. 89, No. 1000, 1996

D. Gendzwill., Department of Geological Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, N. Martin, formerly with Patience Lake Potash Mine, Rio Algom

In early 1987, the Patience Lake potash mine near Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, was closed due to uncontrollable flooding. Water inflows were first encountered during routine mining in 1975 at the south boundary of the mine lease. Underground grouting and construction of bulkheads limited the flow but did not completely stop it. Subsequent seismic surveys showed that the mine had approached the edge of a large collapse structure in which the salt and potash had been partly dissolved and removed by groundwater. In 1986, the small flow into the mine started to grow. Despite renewed grouting, the flood increased and outstripped pump capacity. The grouting program temporarily slowed the inflow but was unable to stop it. Eventually, from seismic and drilling evidence, it became clear that the water source was an extensive system of vertical fractures which would be impossible to seal by drilling and grouting from underground. A new plan to install 14 bulkheads underground would have sealed the water source from the rest of the mine but the construction program could not be completed before rapidly increasing inflows threatened to fill the mine. The underground mine was closed and a new solution mine started in 1988.
Keywords: Flooding, Groundwater control, Patience Lake mine, Potash mining, Salt collapse structures, Underground mining,.