Setting the Stage for Shaft Sinking at K3
The stage is being set for one of the largest shaft sinking operations of the decade as The Mosaic Company positions itself for the construction of two shafts at its K3 potash mine four kilometres east of the Town of Esterhazy.
There are but a few shaft-sinking companies in the world that have perfected the technology needed for a project of this magnitude according to Paul McMillen, Mosaic’s Expansion Program Manager.
Mosaic has secured Associated Mining Construction (AMC), a shaft-sinking company that specializes in sinking potash shafts through the Prairie Evaporates that characterize southeast Saskatchewan.
“The technology involves freezing the ground to a depth of approximately 1,600 feet to control water inflow from ground water, glacier till, and a water-bearing geological layer of sand and clay known as the Blairmore, for one year prior to sinking the shafts and throughout their construction,” said McMillen.
The freezing operations are scheduled to begin in May. Meanwhile, the freeze pipes that will circulate a calcium chloride refrigerant down to a depth of 1,600 feet and back to surface, are in place. Six of the nine freeze plants are on site. Lafarge has commissioned a mobile plant on site and has been batching concrete for a variety of auxiliary buildings and stockpiling aggregates. The main intake substation is scheduled to be commissioned by May and will take the place of the temporary substation that, to date, has been the sole source of electrical power to the site. A water treatment plant has been erected and will use a reverse osmosis process to treat water that will be piped overland from the company’s K2 site.
This year’s mild winter conditions have been both a blessing and curse for the over 300 contract workers on site. Above average temperatures makes for more comfortable and more productive working conditions, but create their own challenges for excavators and site maintenance crews.
Mosaic is one of the world's leading producers and marketers of concentrated potash and phosphate crop nutrients. The Esterhazy K3 mine site development is one of the most significant projects in Mosaic’s current plans for potash expansion. After the multi-year expansion effort, which involves several distinct projects in Saskatchewan, the company’s annual nameplate capacity is expected to increase by 50 percent, to approximately 16.5 million tonnes by 2021.
Saskatchewan is expected to lead the nation in economic growth in 2012. Potash production and capital spending were the key factors in Saskatchewan’s strong economic performance in 2011 and are forecasted to continue to drive the economy moving forward.