Mining giant BHP Billiton has floated a potential production date for its Jansen potash mine near Saskatoon.
Company CEO Andrew McKenzie spoke at a conference in Barcelona, Spain on Tuesday.
In his remarks, he gave the most concrete details to-date on when the mine, about 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon, might open.
“As we currently see it, we’re looking at a phased expansion into Jansen with an initial stage of four million tonnes per annum,” he said.
McKenzie went on to outline a potential timeline.
“It could be something that we’ll seek board approval of as early as June of next year, with possible first production in 2023,” he said.
McKenzie’s remarks are a sharp contrast from years of speculation suggesting the project might not be able to go ahead due to low world potash prices.
BHP head of corporate affairs Chris Ryder spoke with 650 CKOM about McKenzie’s remarks.
He warned the CEO’s presentation shouldn’t be taken as a formal announcement, as the company’s board still has to approve any move towards production.
“This is not us pre-supposing board approval,” he said.
Rather, Ryder said McKenzie’s revelations were based on the ongoing feasibility study being prepared for the board.
“The board is going to look at the project economics and they’re going to look at the potash markets and make sure we’re going to need potash in 2023, or when we’re talking about coming online,” he said.
If it gets the go-ahead, the Jansen mine would be expected to employ about 2,500 people during the peak of construction.
Once the mine is operating, Ryder said they anticipated employing between 400-600 people.
To date, the company has spent or committed $3.8 billion on the project. Ryder said they anticipated a further $4.7 billion in capital costs based on today’s estimates.
At full production across all phases, Jansen would be expected to produce between 8 and 10 million tonnes of potash per year.
Ryder said that would make it the largest potash mine in Saskatchewan, barring any new builds or expansions from competing companies.