Billiton weighs mine expansion – by Scott Larson (Saskatoon Star Phoenix – April 11, 2013)

BHP Billiton still has plenty of work to do on its proposed $12-billion Jansen potash project before it can take the next step and submit the project to its board for final approval. The Australian mining giant has said it will hold off giving the green light to any major new projects, including Jansen, until at least June 30.

At a Bloomberg conference in Sydney on Wednesday, BHP’s chief financial officer, Graham Kerr, indicated the Jansen project could be presented to the board in the next financial year. That means the Jansen project could go before the board early as this July or as late as June 2014.

A recent story in the Sydney Morning Herald said Jansen is “likely to be among those considered first” once the freeze has been lifted.

BHP spokeswoman Bronwyn Wilkinson said there is still a substantial amount of work to be done and no time frame has been set as to when the Jansen project will be presented to the board for approval.

“The Jansen project is in feasibility study phase and remains subject to BHP Billiton board sanction,” Wilkinson said. BHP’s decision to increase Jansen’s first phase from its initial production of two million tonnes per annum (2mtpa) of potash to at least 4mtpa “requires extensive additional engineering design, particularly on the surface infrastructure.”

“A 4mtpa first stage is a large mine in the context of the existing potash operations, and we will be using new technologies, so will spend time on the engineering to ensure we get it right,” Wilkinson said. “This is a substantial amount of work and we have not given a time frame for when it is likely to be ready.

“However, the additional time will allow the underground production rooms to be built out, which will mean higher initial production rates once Jansen is brought on production.”

Saskatchewan Energy and Resources Minister Tim McMillan said whether the mine proceeds is up to the company, but was impressed by what he saw when visiting the Jansen site in December.

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