People around Earl Grey, Sask., discuss proposed potash mine (CBC News Saskatchewan – July 23, 2015)

Public meeting held in Earl Grey

People from around Earl Grey, Sask., took part in a public meeting Thursday to discuss a proposed Chinese-owned potash mine in the area.

Yancoal Canada, which operates coal mines in China and Australia, is proposing a potash mine with an annual output of 2.8 million tonnes near the communities of Earl Grey, Southey and Strasbourg.

Prior to the meeting, local resident Cathi Beckel said she has concerns about the project, noting there are too many risks — including water security issues and a boom and bust job situation — with too few benefits.

“I’m concerned about our environment. I’m concerned about our farmers. I’m concerned about our communities,” Beckel said. “These big industries come in and they really change communities.”

Representatives from Yancoal, and provincial officials from the ministries of the economy and the environment were at the meeting to make presentations on the proposal. There was also a question and answer session.

The project plans to use a solution mining technique where water is poured into wells to bring potash up to the surface instead of conventional digging and extraction of the mineral from underground mine shafts.

Yancoal has a license to use water from the Buffalo Pound reservoir for the proposed operation and is also set to pay a water rights fee to Saskatchewan’s Water Security Agency.

Prior to the public meeting, Yancoal spokesperson Asad Naqvi said the company will need between 12 million and 14 million cubic metres of water for the mine, but noted amount will reduce substantially after operations are stable.

“I don’t know the exact number but it would be quite a lot,” Naqvi said. “Initially it would be high but then you start recycling the water and the amount goes down.”

Beckel said water usage is a big concern and described the proposed operation as needing an “incredible amount” of water.

Carol Nixon, another local resident, had a similar view and said water should not be compromised for a foreign-owned business.

“Freshwater is our lifeblood. Without it our communities won’t exist,” Nixon said prior to the meeting. “We’re upset.”

Naqvi said the amount of water Yancoal will use is a sustainable amount, based upon an environmental impact study.

“That would not affect the human use or even the farming use,” he said.

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