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Conservation group frustrated over conditional approval of Sask. potash mine

Public Pastures — Public Interest expressed its concerns regarding the Saskatchewan government's recent conditional approval of the Albany Potash Project. Derek Putz / Global News

Public Pastures — Public Interest (PPPI) is expressing its frustrations following the conditional approval of the Albany Potash Project earlier this month.

CanPacific Potash Inc. is looking to build a 3.25-million tonne a year solution mine about 50 kilometres southeast of Regina.

READ MORE: Potash mine proposal in southern Saskatchewan receives conditional approval

However, PPPI says the mine could “harm or destroy up to 6,000 hectares of important grassland, wetland and riparian habitat in the upper Wascana Creek watershed in the area.”

Conditions put on CanPacific include developing a compensation plan for any native grassland and wetland habitat that are impacted by the construction of the mine and cannot be avoided.

“In a time when young people are calling on political leaders to make wise decisions for the future regarding climate change and water use, how can this government justify a project that will salinize and permanently remove millions of cubic meters of water from the Qu’Appelle Watershed,” said PPPI spokesperson Trevor Herriot.

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“All while destroying habitat for 146 species of prairie wildlife and plants, including thirteen species at risk, and releasing untold tons of greenhouse gases?”

READ MORE: Conservation group raises concerns over proposed potash mine near Regina

Other conditions include submitting a signed development plan agreement to the RM of Francis prior to construction proceeding and identifying methods to restore and/or enhance existing areas or create new native prairie and wetlands.

Despite these conditions, PPPI isn’t convinced it’s enough.

“While restoration might sound reasonable to the layperson, grassland and wetland ecologists will tell you that even the best restoration is a poor substitute for old-growth prairie and long-established wetlands,” the organization said.

READ MORE: NCC wants thousands of hectares of native Saskatchewan prairie grasslands protected

PPPI also shared concerns about increased soil salinity on farmland and extensive use of scarce water resources, as 8,760,000 to 14,454,000 cubic metres per year of water could be drawn from Lake Diefenbaker through Buffalo Pound Lake.

“Recent mapping shows that in Saskatchewan we have lost more than 86 per cent of our original native prairie habitat, on which many species depend.  Remaining tracts of native grassland and wetland provide habitat that should be protected at all costs,” the group said.

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