Q & A with Pam Schwann executive director of the Saskatchewan Mining Association – by Robyn Tocker (Regina Leader-Post – May 24, 2014)

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Saskatchewan’s mining industry is an important part of the province’s economy. Pam Schwann, executive director of the Saskatchewan Mining Association (SMA), answered what everyone wants to know about the province’s mining industry.

What does Saskatchewan’s mining industry produce? Saskatchewan produces a diversity of minerals that ultimately help feed and fuel the world.

Potash is produced from the Prairie Evaporite Formation at ten mines in central and southern Saskatchewan, including eight conventional underground operations and two solution mines. In 2013, uranium was produced from two underground mines in the Athabasca Basin of northern Saskatchewan with a third, the Cigar Lake mine, coming into production in the 1Q of 2014. Gold was produced from two mining operations in the Precambrian Shield of northern Saskatchewan in 2013, although currently, only one gold mine is in production.

Coal is mined from three open pit mines in southern Saskatchewan. Other minerals including salt, sodium sulphate, silica sand, bentonite and clay are also produced in Saskatchewan. Deposits of diamonds and rare earth elements have been identified, but have not yet been developed. Historically, Saskatchewan has also produced copper, zinc, platinum, palladium, nickel and silver.

How much does Saskatchewan contribute to Canada’s mining industry?

Saskatchewan ranked as Canada’s third leading mineral producing jurisdiction in 2013, with production valued at $7.2 billion. Saskatchewan continues to be the only Canadian jurisdiction to be a worldleading producer in two commodities – potash and uranium.

Saskatchewan’s potash mines produce more than 90 per cent of Canada’s potash, with Saskatchewan producers providing approximately 30 per cent of global potash production. For the fourth consecutive year, potash was the top-ranked mineral commodity produced in Canada by value of sales, at $6.1 billion.

Saskatchewan uranium mines produce 100 per cent of Canada’s uranium production, accounting for almost 17 per cent of global uranium production. Cameco’s McArthur River mine is the world’s highest grade uranium mine as well as the world’s largest uranium producing mine, accounting for 13 per cent of the world’s primary uranium supply. Uranium rounded out the top ten minerals produced in Canada in 2013, with a value of $770 million.

The total value of mineral production in Canada was $43.6 billion. In 2013, four provinces produced 75 per cent of Canadian mineral production by value. Ontario was the leading mineral producing jurisdiction in Canada ($9.8 billion) followed by Quebec ($8.2 billion), Saskatchewan ($7.2 billion) and B.C. ($7 billion).

What are Saskatchewan’s mining advantages, compared to other provinces?

Saskatchewan’s foremost mining advantage relates to its geological framework that hosts world class deposits of potash, uranium and diamonds. These deposits pose unique technical challenges, which has required the Saskatchewan industry to be innovative in developing mining technologies to safely mine these deposits. This innovation also extends to the very strong, homegrown mining service sector that has worked with the mining companies to identify and create solutions to safely and cost-efficiently mine these challenging deposits.

In the 2012-13 Survey of Mining companies, the Fraser Institute ranked Saskatchewan fifth out of 96 mining jurisdictions around the world for mineral potential, assuming current regulations and land-use restrictions. Saskatchewan also ranked fourth-best for the quality and ease of access to its geological databases, and the province was acknowledged for its progressive mining-friendly government.

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