N.B. farmers call on province to drop potash aspirations

Click to play video: 'Talks of potash industry in New Brunswick  resurface'
Talks of potash industry in New Brunswick resurface
WATCH: Talks of New Brunswick getting back into the potash industry have resurfaced once again. It comes as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to impact potash -- a key ingredient for fertilizer. But as Robert Lothian reports, stakeholders are warning a new mine may not be the best option – Nov 7, 2022

Potential for New Brunswick to approve potash exploration has garnered concerns from stakeholders in the province.

On Oct. 21, a provincial news release stated the government had issued a request for proposals for potash exploration in the Salt Springs and Cassidy Lake areas, southeast of Norton.

“If there’s a contender that wants to, and the potash availability is satisfactory, wouldn’t it be great,” New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters on Oct. 27.

Discussion surrounding potash – a key ingredient for fertilizer – are a result of supply concerns over the commodity caused by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

The National Farmers Union in New Brunswick released a statement Monday strongly opposing the exploration and the possibility for a new mine.

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The statement noted concerns over exploration on “unceded and unsurrendered territory of Indigenous Peoples,” the potential damage to farmland, and impacts to water supply.

In an interview with Global News, executive director Suzanne Fournier noted a mine’s economic impact has been reduced since the emergence of technology and automation.

“We know from the last mine that was in New Brunswick over 90 per cent of the potash extracted was actually shipped overseas,” Fournier remarked.

Click to play video: 'Picadilly potash mine shutting down, eliminating 400 jobs'
Picadilly potash mine shutting down, eliminating 400 jobs

“This is not going to benefit New Brunswick farmers, they probably will be priced out of being able to us it as a resource.”

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When asked about the potential to cut down costs for farmers, Fournier noted their push to reduce input use.

“It’s just really important, at this point in our climate crisis, to recognize limits and that no economic activity will take place in this province if we completely decimate it.”

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A potash mine was previously situated outside Sussex, N.B., however, a lack of demand at the time forced operations to close in 2016.

In recent months, owner Nutrien has halted discussions about reopening the mine to capitalize on prices.

“Given the prices right now of potash, if anybody else owned that plant that didn’t have another option, they would be making money with that facility,” Higgs said.

Richard Lively, who has long advocated for the Picadilly mine to be put back into operation, has concerns about exploration elsewhere.

The nearly 40-year veteran of the potash industry stated it could take about four years before operations could commence.

“The problem is for a junior to do it, it’s very risky because it’s probably $1.5 to $2 million per hole, and you have to have at least a minimum of four to six drill holes,” he said.

“Any large potash company already has their potash projects and expansions, and they can afford to take the risk, but they’re not interested in coming to New Brunswick.”

Lively noted unless the province is willing to provide incentives to smaller companies, it’s unlikely they will be willing to carry the risk.

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According to the province, parties have until Dec. 20 to submit proposals on exploration for potash resources.

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