A Geological Approach to Potash Mining Problems in Saskatchewan, Canada

Exploration & Mining Geology, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1993

CHRISTOPHER BOYS, EBA Engineering Ltd., Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Many water inflows in Saskatchewan potash mines are linked to salt anomalies. Potash ore and three anomalies in the PCS Cory potash mine in the Patience Lake Member of the Prairie Evaporite Formation were studied to understand the processes involved in their formation. Another goal was to find geological indicators of the proximity of anomalies. A geological model that relates the potash to the salt anomalies has been developed. Up to five post-burial fades may be recognized. These range from carbonate-mud collapse breccias to bedded sylvinite, and probably result from post-burial leaching. In this model, the same fluids that caused widespread recrystallization and possibly enrichment of the potash salts, started by dissolving huge cavities in the evaporites. The effects of the leaching were highly variable, indicated by selectively preserved delicate laminae and chevron textures, to deformed and totally dissolved salt beds. In at least two major events, Late Devonian and Cretaceous, collapse structures may have acted as conduits for overlying formation waters to cause pervasive leaching and recrystallization of the Prairie Evaporite Formation. Geological indicators of the proximity of an anomaly may include: a change in insoluble seam color from greenish-gray to mottled brown and greenish-gray, unusual local increases in ore grade, large patches (e.g., >200 cm2) of sylvite-poor potash crosscutting units near the top of the ore zone, and drops in topography > 10 m of the marker seams. Anhydrite was more common in an anomaly than in ore. The local abundance of anhydrite in ore may indicate me proximity of some salt anomalies. Once an anomaly has been encountered, indicators of a major collapse feature may include: stretched clay seams, folded beds, small collapse features (1 m to 20 m), numerous washouts, or split clay seams with injected salt. Any number, or none, of these indicators may be found close to a major collapse feature.