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Environmental assessment milestone reached for Gensource Potash Corporation

Published by , Assistant Editor
Global Mining Review,

On 9 August, Canadian potash development company Gensource Potash Corporation (Gensource) announced the accomplishment of the environmental assessment milestone: approval from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment (MOE) for its Vanguard One Project in Saskatchewan (Canada).

This development means that Gensource is not required to complete a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), since it has been recognised that the project has a number of positive environmental attributes that will not trigger the stringent criteria of the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Act and, consequently, the project is unlikely to have a significant impact on the environment. This notification officially confirms that the project can now proceed to the next stage of the environmental regulatory process: detailed construction licensing.

Gensource’s President & CEO, Mike Ferguson, commented: “a Ministerial Determination of ‘not a development’ is a fantastic outcome for Gensource and our Vanguard One project and is exactly what the team was working towards. It is a decision that we anticipated due to the fact that our approach to potash mining is radically different from traditional potash projects – Vanguard One will be much more environmentally friendly with no salt tailings and no brine ponds of any sort. This determination not only confirms one of our core values as a company – to provide a cleaner source of potash production – but it is also a crucial element to our project success, as it enables a much faster, more efficient and cost-effective overall project development timeline.”

According to the MOE, “An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a results-based process used by the Government of Saskatchewan to understand and evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a project before any irreversible decisions are taken that may lead to negative effects on the environment, natural resources or public health and safety.” 

As per the Environmental Assessment Act (the Act), proponents are to evaluate and self-assess as to whether or not their proposed project is likely to meet any of the specific criteria within the Act that would trigger a full environmental impact assessment, and whether a review under the Act is warranted.

Based on the technology, size, and environmental implications of the Project, the Gensource team strongly believed that the Project should not be classified as a “development” under the Act. On that basis, Gensource engaged Golder Associates Ltd. (Golder) to prepare a Technical Proposal for the Vanguard One project, which was submitted in June 2017 to the Environmental Assessment & Stewardship (EAS) Branch of the MOE, for review and determination. As part of the Technical Proposal, potential effects of the Project on the local environment were assessed. Further work was completed to address additional information requests from the EAS Branch over the course of the review period. Subsequently, on August 8, 2018, Gensource received official communication from the Government of Saskatchewan confirming that, indeed, the project was not classified as a “development”, since the project is unlikely to cause significant adverse residual effects on the environment.

The Vanguard One project is not a conventional potash solution mine. The plant site footprint is approximately 300 m by 300 m (9 hectares or approximately 22 acres) and, compared to a conventional potash solution mine, it has a reduced impact on the environment through its lack of salt tailings, lack of brine-containing surface ponds, reduced impact to utilities and local infrastructure and reduced water consumption per tonne of product produced.

The environmental advantages of a Gensource potash module include:

  • No salt tailings or brine structures (i.e. ponds) on surface.
  • Only groundwater will be used for mining and process water.
  • Reduced consumption of water per tonne of product produced.
  • Self-generating power (Natural Gas boiler/steam turbine generator – cleaner than purchasing grid power, which is majority coal-fired, resulting in a net greenhouse gas reduction).
  • Site layout can accommodate doubling of production capacity, without a footprint increase.
  • Smaller consumption of utilities, and lower impact on community infrastructure.

The project is designed to produce 250 000 tpy of potassium chloride (KCl, or potash). To put this into context, this is approximately 1/10th of the annual production of a typical potash mine in Saskatchewan – a feat accomplished while driving down operating costs per tonne to a globally competitive level.

Gensource has previously communicated that there remained two significant milestones to allow the Project to proceed to construction: environmental assessment; and project finance.

In May, the company announced a definitive, binding off-take agreement with a strategic North American diversified agricultural company (see 18 May 2018 news release) for the sale of 100% of Vanguard One’s production for a period of 10 years.

The one remaining item is project finance. Since the completion of the definitive off-take agreement, Gensource, in conjunction with its investment banking team, has made positive and steady progress in assembling the necessary project financing package to launch the Project forward into detailed engineering/procurement and construction. Further updates will be provided as the finance package progresses.

“We appreciate the work of our team, together with the professionalism exhibited by the personnel of the EAS Branch of the MOE, to allow us to achieve this milestone. We are excited to move Vanguard One forward,” Vanguard added.

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