Vale announces ‘unfortunate, but not surprising’ delay in [Saskatchewan potash] $3-billion mine – by Richard Blackwell (Globe and Mail – August 17, 2012)

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Brazilian mining giant Vale SA is postponing a $3-billion potash project in Saskatchewan, but the province says this is just a minor setback in the huge runup in potash investment that will continue to flow in the coming years.

The huge mine was to be developed near Kronau, a town of about 200 people, 30 kilometres southeast of Regina. It would have employed more than 1,000 workers during construction, and hundreds would have been needed to operate it once it was opened. The mine was expected to produce 2.9 million metric tonnes of potash a year.

But the mine, set to be built over the next three years, will not go ahead as planned because of global economic uncertainly, Vale chief executive officer Murilo Ferreira told reporters in Rio de Janeiro Thursday. Vale is committed to austerity, and may delay other investments as well, he said.

The mine was expected to be a boon to the region, not just in terms of employment, but in sectors that traditionally spring up around big projects, including housing and retail.

Vale Canada spokesman Cory McPhee said the project is being postponed, but not cancelled.

“We are simply re-evaluating it,” he said, because of the current economic conditions. “We are looking at all the projects we have on our plate and prioritizing.”

Some work on the project, such as environmental impact studies, will continue in the meantime, he said. The company will provide details of the delay to its shareholders in the near future, but won’t elaborate until then.

Vale bought the Kronau project from Australia-based Rio Tinto PLC in 2009 for about $850-million (U.S.)

Saskatchewan’s Minister of the Economy, Bill Boyd, said it was “unfortunate, but not surprising” that Vale was putting the brakes on the Kronau project. As a new entrant into potash, “I am sure they are trying to time their arrival into the marketplace with future demand,” he said.

Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc. said Thursday that its Lanigan potash mine is being shut down for a month in mid-September to match supply with market demand.

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