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BHP marks milestone at Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan

Jansen mine shaft. (Image courtesy of BHP)

BHP (ASX: BHP) announced Tuesday that the team at the Jansen potash mine in Saskatchewan recently completed the excavation and lining of the two 1,000 metre deep shafts at the mine, the largest of their kind in the Canadian province. 

The world’s biggest miner is seeking to accelerate construction at its $5.7 billion Jansen potash project as high gas prices and sanctions on key exporters continue to disrupt global supplies of fertilizers. It is a step towards bringing online the project which is planned to be the largest potash producing mine in the world, providing a source of potassium to keep soils fertile and maximize food production.

BHP had originally planned to kick off production at Jansen in 2027. Market conditions, however, have prompted it to attempt bringing forward Stage 1 first production into 2026, which is expected to yield 4.35 million tonnes of potash per year.

BHP worked with partners to leverage the latest technology for this project, which marks the first instance of mechanized shaft sinking in the world and entails artificial ground freezing to a depth of 800 metres.

This ground freezing technique prevents water inflow and ensures ground stability during shaft excavation, the company noted. Once excavated, a primary and final liner created a waterproof seal to protect the shafts from underground aquifers.

The shafts are one of the most technically risky parts of developing a greenfield project like Jansen and their completion will significantly reduce the development risk, BHP said. Larger diameter shafts like these (7.3 metres in diameter) require outfitting only one shaft for stage 1, significantly reducing upfront capital.

For future stages, the same two shafts enable options for multiple sequenced brownfield expansions of more than 16 Mtpa production, subject to business and regulatory approval.

“The team’s safety record and performance since January 2020 has exceeded our plan,” Simon Thomas, BHP’s president, potash said in the statement.