Environmental group urges caution in ‘fast-tracking’ proposed potash mine north of Regina

Click to play video: 'Group still pushing for slowdown on Yancoal potash mine on last day for public submissions'
Group still pushing for slowdown on Yancoal potash mine on last day for public submissions
Group still pushing for slowdown on Yancoal potash mine on last day for public submissions – Jun 6, 2016

An environmental group is calling on the province to stop what they call “fast-tracking” a proposed potash mine near Southey, Sask.

“The incremental approach, project by project, is no way to look at water conservation or future water security,” Jim Harding of the Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association (QVEA), said.

The QVEA is worried about Chinese-owned Yancoal’s proposed mine, which would be located about 60 kilometres north of Regina, including its impact on a number of environmental concerns, specifically water.

Harding also said the 45-day public comment period on the mine’s over 1,500 page Environmental Impact Assessment is too short. An extension was granted, as the normal comment period is 30 days.

READ MORE: Residents still have concerns about proposed potash mine north of Earl Grey

The group fears the mine, which plans to use solution mining, will impact not just the local water supply, but the Qu’Appelle watershed as well.

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Solution mining involves pumping large amounts of water underground to access potash reserves, which are too deep for conventional underground mining.

“They’re talking about 20,000 cubic metres a day of brine being injected into the Hatfield aquifer,” Harding said.

Once used, Harding said the water is permanently removed from the renewable water cycle.

“The Water Security Agency has done an independent assessment of what capacity is available to the system, and they reassure us that the water we’re going to be pulling out of it is quite small compared to what capacity is there,” Robin Kusch, Yancoal’s public and community relations lead, said.

The Water Security Agency has not yet confirmed this statement.

Yancoal plans on using Buffalo Pound as their primary water source. The lake is the water supply for a number of communities including Moose Jaw, Sask. and Regina. K + S also plans on using it for their water supply at their Legacy Site.

In an effort to mitigate the impact on the water supply, Kusch said Yancoal is going to be using a water recycling method where they’ll be able to reuse about 30 per cent of the waste water produced from injection mining.

The mine site has other critics like the Havelock Special Projects Committee, which has hosted a number of information nights about the mine.

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However, according to an Earl Grey, Sask village councillor, the project has the support of municipal governments in his town. Southey, Strasburg, and the Rural Municipality of Longlaketon are also in favour of the mine.

“Of 960 people in the RM, 900 were for it, and 60 were against,” Cam Fischer said.

Fischer acknowledges some people who will be living close to the mine site are against the mine, and there can be drawbacks to living near the mine.

However, he said the mine can bring an estimated 400 full-time jobs and young people he says the area needs.

“But the reality is the benefits for this RM and this community far, far exceed any negative, in any way shape or form,” he explained.

Assuming the mine is approved by the province, Yancoal hopes to begin the 36-month construction process in early 2017.

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