BHP Billiton Ltd., the world’s largest mining company, may spend between US$5 billion and US$10 billion expanding its underground Jansen potash project, located approximately 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in Canada.
The company believes that the mine’s production capacity could reach the eight million tonnes of saleable potash per annum and that its lifetime could be over half a century.
The process plant will crush the ore (sylvinite) to a size where the potassium chloride and sodium chloride (salt) crystals can be separated. A series of scrubbing, conditioning, flotation and debrining-drying stages will produce the final product. Potash will be stored in large indoor storage sheds until it is transported off-site by rail.
In the period 2006-09 the U.S.A. imported 87% of its potash needs from Canada. In 2009 the global potash consumption fell to below 31.8 million tonnes product from more than 53.8 million in 2008, after collapsing from the combined effects of the world economic downturn, high prices, and weak demand, but last year the world potash markets began to recover. Canada has nearly half of the world potash reserves; it is followed by Russia and Belarus.