K+S officially opens Bethune potash mine

The first new potash mine built in Saskatchewan in 40 years held its grand opening Tuesday afternoon. 

The K+S Bethune mine, located 60 kilometres northwest of Regina, is expected to produce two million tonnes of potash by the end of the year.

Norbert Steiner, CEO of K+S AG, said the company expects production costs to be low enough to make the mine profitable even with lower potash prices.

"We made the investment decision at a time when prices were significantly higher but when you are on the road to build such a big plant, you are well-advised to continue the building of the plant until it is finished," he said.

Ulrich Lamp, CEO of K+S Potash Canada, said the company chose to build in Saskatchewan because the deposit was of good quality, but more importantly because of the legal and democratic system.

"You have conditions that are fair and well-managed and that may be a little different than most other countries with potash resources," he said.

The mine project was originally named Legacy, but officially changed its name today.

The German-based company expects to produce its first tonne of potash at the end of June. That potash will travel by rail to Vancouver, where it will be shipped to customers in South America and Asia.

"I'm looking forward to waiting behind long blue and copper cars at a railway crossing in Swift Current because those trains will be heading to Port Moody and export markets," said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall in a speech at the grand opening event.

Two of K+S's predecessor companies and their French partner operated the Alwinsal mine (now the Lanigan mine) in the late 1960s but sold its interest in the mine to the Saskatchewan Potash Corp in the mid-1970s.

Wall thanked K+S for choosing to build in the province again.

"I'm not going to get into all of the reasons why they left but a lot of it had to do with government policy," he said.

He said he will repay the company's confidence by supporting the company and keeping the business climate hospitable to future investments.

K+S started building the potash mine in 2012. The company spent $4.6 billion on the project. It is the largest mine in the company's history.

It's expected the Bethune mine will create 400 permanent jobs.

Correction : The story originally said Bethune was northeast of Regina. In fact, it is northwest.(May 02, 2017 12:46 PM)