The Mining Supply Chain Forum, hosted by SMA, SIMSA and Ministry of Trade and Export Development is the primary mining supply chain event in western Canada that brings together the Saskatchewan mining industry and local suppliers to enhance their global competitiveness and expand markets.
Following is a Draft Agenda:
Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Tradeshow set up (no set up permitted on April 17)
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Speakers will be from 8:00am - 12:00pm (subject to change)
Tradeshow open 10:00am - 6:00pm
Thursday, April 18, 2024
Speakers will be from 8:00am - 12:00pm (subject to change)
Tradeshow open 10:00am - 4:00pm
Mineral Exploration Expo
November 27, 2023
Mineral Exploration Expo 2023 was held Thursday, November 9 at the Art Hauser Centre in Prince Albert. MinExplo Expo is an opportunity for primarily northern-owned businesses and community economic development officers to learn about mineral exploration programs and related business and employment opportunities that SMA member companies are planning for the upcoming 2022/2023 year.
Following are the presentations from MinExplo Expo 2023:
Spent a busy, informative, and fun, first afternoon and next morning learning about all that is geology, mining processes, and mining safety in Saskatchewan. Am suddenly proud of what the industry is doing and has to offer potential employees (ie. our students)! Thanks to our presenters for a relaxed day of learning.
Now it is time to load the bus and…..
Get our motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
At whatever mines come our way
Born to be wild……
First stop BHP Discovery Lodge
All I can say is wow they treat their employees well! Top grades for planning a home away from home. The whole facility is designed to allow all the amenities employees might use in their home communities but it is all in one location! Almost like an all inclusive resort, except you have to go to work each day….. Gym, training facilities, court sports, outdoor track and training area, lounges for recreation, garden plots for those with a green thumb, and a top-notch theatre! I am sure I missed a few details but was very impressed. Thanks to BHP for the hosting us and providing a great lunch!
Back on the bus and…..
Yeah, we’re gonna make it happen
Take mining in a love embrace
Fire up the bus at once and
Explode into Esterhazy
Born to be wild…….
Made our way to Esterhazy and were treated to a great homemade dinner of perogies, cabbage rolls, and sausage with salad at the local bowling alley. The meal set us up for a tour of the Saskatchewan Potash Interpretive Centre. Thanks to our guides, Richard and Oliver, who shared their vast knowledge of all the working parts and processes of the local mines while explaining the artifacts at the centre.
And, back on the bus to the hotel…..
Like a true teacher’s child
We were born, born to learn
Got to learn so much
But now we wanna rest
Born to be wild……
Thanks to Steppenwolf for the tune.
Day one complete!
August 14, 2023
Video Blog: Potash - Conventional Underground - Nutrien Rocanville (forthcoming)
The alarms were set this morning for our group to meet up at 6:15am for a quick visit to the old Willow Bunch Convent site (now a museum), as well as to view the life size statue of Edouard Beaupre, a gentlemen from the area in the 1900’s who was a whopping 8’ 2” tall. We followed his replica size 22 footprints along the sidewalk up to his statue for a group picture before making our way to the bus to take off for the day.
Our next stop was a short ways down the road to Deb’s Country Kitchen in Coronach for a delicious buffet breakfast. The small town diner is a gem and was worth getting out of bed before 6am all in itself. After Deb’s, we hit the road to Westmoreland Poplar River Coal Mine, where we would be until the early afternoon.
At Westmoreland Coal Mine, we were greeted before being shown to a board room where we took in a short orientation/safety video about the company and mine site. After being fitted with steel toe boots and the proper PPE we were on the bus and on our way to check out the sites. Site number one took us to the bottom of a pit where we were able to stretch our legs and grab ourselves coal samples while watching a monstrous drag line scoop away overburden and unearth coal to be excavated later on. The bucket on the drag line can remove a whopping 94 cubic yards per scoop! Site number two provided us with a 2nd drag line unearthing coal, as well as a loader, and multiple articulated haulers working to transport the freshly removed coal to the mill for crushing. An impressive feat of this company is their ability to reclaim the land that they have previously mined, to the point where it is nearly impossible to distinguish the reclaimed land from the virgin land in the area. Bravo!
Dragline exposing coal seam to be hauled by shovel and truck operation
After our mine site visits, we were taken back to the Westmoreland headquarters and provided lunch before we were virtually joined by two gentlemen from the Carbon Capture and Storage Knowledge Centre (CCS) who provided us with an eye opening presentation on the benefits and challenges of carbon capture. They focused on the Boundary Dam 3 CCS facility in Saskatchewan as an example in our area of the work being done to provide our province with a cleaner and more environmentally friendly way to produce energy and etter deal with the byproduct of carbon emissions.
After departing Westmoreland, we made a quick one hour stop at the Big Muddy Badlands. We were lucky enough to have Meagan Gilbert along (she is a guru in all things to do with geology, rocks, land formations…the list goes on). Meagan explained the formation of Big Muddy to us and how it came to be over the history of our earth, as well as explained all the layers that were visible in the land formation. We got in touch with our artistic side and all took a stab at sketching a land formation or item of interest at the badlands. Some very humorous attempts at drawing! Exploring was done, some braved their way climbing to the top of Big Muddy, some explored the caves, some hiked the trail around the formation, and some squeezed in all three! A very cool stop along our way to Moose Jaw.
Our final stop before checking into The Grant Hotel for the night in Moose Jaw was a road cut where we had the opportunity to collect some crystalized gypsum samples that are growing in the present day conditions of that warm, dry site.
August 16, 2023
August 17, 2023
Up early out of the hotel after breakfast and off to Rise Air terminal at the airport for our journey North to Cigar Lake uranium mine operated by Cameco! Off the plane at the air strip onto a bus to the mine site.
As we arrive and deplane on the tarmac, Elena attempts to speak to the pilot crew in French. Little does she know that the bilingual intercom messages in the air were prerecorded.
This author is surprised that the cell service seems to be as good or better than home.
As we load on the bus, Robert sits in the front seat, attempting to usurp an already known fact, that the real cool kids travel at the front of the bus.
Kristin gets audibly excited as well enter the camp grounds, and spots an excavator. This leads, once again, in to additional renditions of a children's song she seems to have permanently etched in her memory.
As we exit the bus and climb 3 flights of stairs, this author notes that literally everyone seems to have learned nothing from our previous days orientation, as not one person implemented 3 points of constant contact in their ascent.
In the board room, Tamara clamors for the coffee machines, exclaiming the amount of coffee stops on the plane was inadequate, by her opinion.
We meet our hosts, Smiling Trevor and local bodybuilder, the man, the myth, the Transylvanian legend: Imra.
After we confirm with our hosts that we have been trained on air ventilators, they are very disappointed to find out that we actually know next to nothing about these safety devices. After increasing our knowledge, we are happily informed that there may not be enough ventilators for all of us anyways.
Down the mineshaft we go, on a platform which we are informed allegedly can carry 22 miners down to the mining level. This author can't help but question the math behind that, unless there is a lot of miner piggybacking involved.
Once out at mining level, this author asks what kind of rollercoaster Cameco uses, given the tracks in the floor. The response given was that they were used a long time ago, possibly the 90s? Maybe to move around a precursor to the JBM?
Jola and this author reflect on the walls and how the concrete added to help hold back the rock face reminds us of the old restaurant The Cave. Later, Tamara will comment on how they reminded her of amusement parks.
Tanner worries about cracks in the walls of the JBM tunnel. Kim assures him it's probably fine and we won't die. Tanner has not been convinced.
Tamara asks how fast the JBM can race. She's informed that it takes over a day to move to a new tunnel. "That don't impress me much" she is thinks to herself in the singsong manner of a certain Canadian country music star.
Group 2 failed to do the tour in the right order. We fist bump them to help keep their spirits up despite their incompetencies.
Brad shows Imra our schedule to impress upon him that we need to move faster. Imra knows education is more important than schedules and assures Brad we will be on time.
Imra shows us the backup pumps for the mine, and once again assured us that they have way more mechanical means to remove water than the last time the mine flooded. This surely assures most in the group.
This author heavily suspects that the sadness draped across Meagan's complexion like a dark cloud is because of all of the shotcrete covering up every square inch of the otherwise pretty rock face. Here and there she steals away where bare rock face is exposed in small amounts. Brad and Pam will later confirm that 25% of Lafarge's production of this cement is used up here at Cigar Lake, and that some rock material refuse that's locally sourced may or will be used in cement creation.
Near the end of our underground tour, Trevor gives us the shakedown we are all too used to by this point in the tour. It isn't our wallets he's after, it's the much more in demand commodity of heavy duty mechanics. We pledge to him that we will procure as many as we can to appease their miner's insatiable appetite for HDMs.
Brad describes Trevor as an HR superhero, as he's the only HR guy he ever has seen down in a mine. Indeed, he has been our literal vanguard during the entire underground tour making sure not even the most attention deficit among us get distracted or lost. In talking to Trevor though, this author finds out that he has a gritty side as well, responsible for much of the firing of incompetent staff at this location. This author now knows that pain that lies behind the charming smile.
After ascending the 500ft (480m) level to surface, we wash our boots of potential contaminants and radioactive material. This author now wonders if Jola should really have been tasting all of the rock wall formations to see if they were better than the walls at Rocanville
After emerging from the Earth, we headed down the road ~75km on the bus to Orano’s Mcarthur River uranium mill to learn how the uranium ore shipped over from the mine is processed, packaged and shipped out as black calcined yellowcake.
Then back to Cigar Lake via bus for the flight back to Saskatoon. Enroute to Cigar we stopped the bus… no need for “Art”-istic backing up of the bus here! Just a quick scramble for one of natures sandstone art pieces… Or is it ballast for the plane? Perhaps our braking mechanism a la Flinstones style for landing.
Our last full day of the GeoVenture 2022 tour began with a short rest in the beautiful rooms at the Canalta in Esterhazy and a nice assortment at the continental breakfast then we were ready to board the bus at 7:15 a.m. Our tour began with a trip out to visit the K3 mine and see it’s new headframe with conveyor belt system running to mills at K1 and K2. The Mosaic logo was proudly displayed at a new multi-million dollar investment in the community of Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. We were able to see the belt line moving between the new K3 shaft and the now flooded shafts of K1 and K2. The tailings ponds of the older ponds are utilized further to accommodate K3 product which reduces infrastructure costs as well as the need for more land usage and reclamation. We also viewed the vast water reservoir used in a recycled process to facilitate mine and milling operations.
After our quick drive-by tour we headed for Colonsay.
At 150 km SE we spotted the BHP Jansen mine out of our bus window. Although their operation is not scheduled to begin until 2027, they are hoping to push up that timeline. It will have an 8 million tone capacity by Stage 2 with an initial target of 4 million tones at Stage 1. BHP has designed the mine to operate remotely being handled through advanced technology from Saskatoon with a potentiometer to support jobs from different locations. This mine will operate as a conventional mine and involve a $7.5 million investment. Closer to Colonsay we passed the site of the Nutrien Lanigan mining operation. Nutrien has committed to increasing potash output by 40% to meet the rising demands imposed by sanctions on Russia and the uncertainty of European supplies. This will see Nutrien Lanigan boosting its production by $1 million tones annually.
Finally arriving at Mosaic in Colonsay, we were introduced to Trevor Tucker, Joe Winters, Nathan Karwandy, Scott Condliffe, Mike Wallace, and Dustin Orosz who would lead our tour for the day. Trevor started off by giving us a brief orientation and an overview of how things run at Mosaic. Mosaic holds safety as a huge priority and their safety program includes areas such as hazard recognition, risk assessment, environmental safety and psychological wellness. We were then showed the Marietta mining machine that is used to mine 600 to 700 tons per hour with a specific cutting style to maintain beam sustainability and product quality while watching for signs of bending and cracking as mining progresses. These stable areas allow for mining longer periods of time. The design of drifts work to protect and prevent pressure claps and ensures mining success.
Current and plant mining areas are extensive and continue to be beneficial to Mosaic landowners and surrounding community. The underground operation includes mining staff areas and refuge stations which are strategically placed for longevity of design and to support safety as well as day-to-day workings underground. The underground flow sheet presented outlined the planned production path and promotes the efficiency of removing the most product safely. The Colonsay potash mine includes a large tailings management design as well as one of the largest product storage warehouses in the industry. Their storage infrastructure holds 6,000 tons in the mill with 145,000 tons of storage in the warehouse. At the Colonsay facility, potash goes through crushing, separation, washing, drying and packaging. Did you know that the potash from this facility is not died but naturally holds a pink or reddish tint?
Interesting fact: Himalayan sea salt lamps are not actually a treasured find but rather made from the cheapest grade of potash that you can find?
Another interesting fact: Secondary products are retrieved in the mining of potash, such as Aspire and Dyna K. Dyna K is used as an additive to animal food and therefore must have all impurities removed.
After the orientation we were were provided a phenomenal lunch, then herded to the change room to dress with PPE so we could go underground into the mine. We were given some rules to follow for moving down into the mine. Once we were all suited up and loaded onto the cage, we moved at 25 km/h to hit 3300 feet below surface. Our guides had each of us sit in one of the Toyota, Jurassic park like buggies. We toured all through the west seven driveline and saw a of number interesting fixtures that make working in the mine efficient and safe for all of its workers. Some sites included storage areas, drill and blast stations, construction shops, warehouse battery storage and diesel shop. One cool machine that I saw was the Rock Bolter which is used to stabilize the ground in different areas of the mine including the ceiling and the walls. Operators of the Rock Bolter have to be specifically trained in order to know how to utilize it properly and safely. It was interesting to see how they drilled stress ways on both sides of the drive area to allow for acceptable failures to occur and essentially make drilling in the areas that they want to safer. The mine operates on large cables that are filled with approximately 15,000 V. In total each cable holds a proximately 5000 V and some of the cables are connected directly to the miner itself. The electricity for these cables is taken from electricity hubs distributed throughout the mine.
The absolute best part of this tour was zipping through the tunnels in the buggies and reaching our destination where we were able to collect samples, talk with the miners themselves, and see all of the different strata in the mineral formations. Once back on the surface we were able to sit down and chat a little bit longer with our tour guides and say goodbye and thank them for the wonderful, unique opportunity. You were outstanding hosts Mosaic!
Our bus driver, George, was initially overwhelmed at seeing how many potash samples we were going to be loading onto the bus with us, as if the experience with the coal samples and black mess the day before wasn’t enough. Thanks George, you “rock”!! To end the day, SK Mining Association treated us all to a wonderful last night celebration at the Cactus Club where we were able to chat and laugh about all of the incredible experiences we’ve had this week.
Saturday, August 20, 2022
This is our last day on GeoVenture… and what an adventure! Today we had three culminating sessions that helped us see how we might use what we learned through GeoVenture and the Saskatchewan Mining Association online resources with our students. Below is a short description of the sessions.
Mining Inquiry Project with an Indigenous Lens
Hilary Roemer,geoscientist and educator with the SMA Education Outreach Program, gave an overview of “Indigenization of SMA Lesson Plans: Mining Inquiry Project” available on the SMA website. Terry Johanson, former SMA Education Outreach Coordinator, led a well-rounded team in the creation of this 85-page document consisting of lessons connected to many curricular outcomes in grades four through nine. Beginning with Elders’ stories about the significance of place, an Indigenous perspective permeates throughout many lessons within the unit’s four themes: Place Matters, Building a Habitat, Mineral Exploration & Mining, and Mining Resources. We did many of the hands-on activities within the lessons including the final cookie mining simulation on land to which we each previously said to have a special connection. SMA encourages educators to use the resource and provide feedback.
Indigenous Engagement within the Resource Sector
Dr. Ken Coates virtually spoke with our group about Indigenous engagement within the resource sector. Raised in Whitehorse, Dr. Coates has worked for Indigenous groups and governments in Canada and internationally and is author of many publications on the subject. Due to memories of past experiences, it is reasonable that some Indigenous communities are suspicious of resource activity that may negatively affect land or way of life even if it may bring economic initiatives. In his presentation, Dr. Coates compared the relationships between Indigenous communities, the resource sector and various levels of government from the 19th century to current day with a focus on specific positive examples within the last couple of decades. In Canada, resource companies and governments must now consult Indigenous communities upon whose land they plan to work and then accommodate appropriately This is partially thanks to the 1982 Constitution (Section 35) on Indigenous and treaty rights and the 2004 Supreme Court case between a provincial government and local Indigenous communities. Even before it became law to consult and accommodate, many resource companies were aware of the reciprocal benefits to ensure good relationships with regional Indigenous communities. Dr. Coates spoke of agreements made to ensure local service and supply companies such as transportation, cleaning and meals are contracted out to local companies and that the resource company’s labour force consists of mainly regional employees trained locally. He gave examples of a deeper level of Indigenous engagement and participation through Indigenous-owned corporations that make significant economic decisions and receive revenue from resource activity. Dr. Coates is hopeful for continued positive relationships and authentic engagement between Indigenous communities and the resource sector.
GeoVenture 2022 consists of teachers with knowledge of most Saskatchewan curriculums from primary to high school. With such varied teaching experiences, Pam and Hilary led and recorded a “lesson plan connection discussion” that had curricular outcome connections to many subjects in most grades.
The SMA Mine Safety Summit - Technical Aspects of Mine Safety will be held on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The format of the Summit utilizes case studies from SMA member companies and includes reviews of incidents.
The 4th Biennial SMA Environmental Forum was held virtually on October 20 & 21, 2021.
The Environmental Forum provided a professional development opportunity for environmental practitioners in the mining industry, consulting businesses, post-secondary researchers and government. With changing regulations and evolving technology it is important for environmental professionals to keep current, and move forward, in developing and identifying best practices related to environmental sustainability. The Forum agenda offered high quality technical presentations on a diverse range of topics.
Saskatchewan Mining Week took place from May 30 - June 5, 2021. This year we recognized Minig Week in a different, virtual way. We modified the format of the events tradtionally held in-person during Mining Week and held various sessions throughout the week with our partners.
The Saskatchewan Mining Association, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Trade and Export Development and the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers Association presents the VirtualSaskatchewan Mining Supply Chain Forum, on the rescheduled dates of December 2 & 3, 2020.
This Forum is the primary mining supply chain event in Western Canada that brings together the Saskatchewan mining industry and local suppliers to enhance their global competitiveness and expand markets.
Click here for more information and to register for the Forum.
NOTE: SMA Members will be sent a separate link to self-register for a complimentary registration.
Saskatchewan Mining Week 2020
May 31, 2020
Saskatchewan Mining Week was held from May 31 - June 6, 2020.
Following are Virtual Activities that occured during Saskatchewan Mining Week.
Media Release: SMA Supports Saskatchewan's Growth Plan
November 14, 2019
The Saskatchwan Mining Association (SMA) supports Saskatchewan's Growth Plan The Next Decade of Growth / 2020 - 2030, including their support of a globally competitive mining sector. Read the full News Release here.
2019 SMA GeoVenture Blog
August 17, 2019
Following is the 2019 SMA GeoVenture Blog that took place August 17 - 22.
Day 1 Orientation and Welcome BBQ, August 17, 2019 - Terry Johanson, SMA Education Outreach
GeoVenture 2019 has officially launched! Our first day included our orientation workshop, getting to know each other and our first meal together at the Saskatoon Inn. Our travelling group this year includes 13 teachers, Dillon Johnstone from the Saskatchewan Geological Survey, and the SMA Team – Pam Schwann (president), Brad Sigurdson (vice-president) and Terry Johanson (Education Outreach Coordinator). Our workshop also included Jessica Theriault from Mosaic.
GeoVenture is a cornerstone of the SMA’s Education Outreach programs, which also include lesson plans, workshops, resources and a new teacher Catalyst program. The catalyst program gives GeoVenture alumni the chance to share their new knowledge with other teachers!
Our group learned so much from Dillon about the geological events that formed our province. Saskatchewan is pretty flat today, but our land was formed from huge mountain-building events and erosion. Dillon showed us that the mineral resources we mine were formed millions of years ago – the metals in the north are embedded in rock 1 to 2 billion years ago, while the potash in the south was formed less than a half a billion years ago. Dillon and Pam capped his presentations off by teaching us how to classify rocks using our rock identification kits.
Did you know that you are more likely to have a lost-time safety incident working in health care than if you work in the mining industry? We were surprised to learn that government workers also have a poorer safety rating than mining! Pam, Brad and Jessica Theriault introduced us to the mining industry in Saskatchewan. Some fun facts are that mining is the fourth highest mineral producer in Canada, we produce 32% of the world’s potash and 22% of the world’s Uranium, the mining sector is the #1 industrial employer of indigenous people, and Saskatchewan is the #1 mineral investment attraction in Canada. Most of us had no idea that mining has such a huge impact on our economy. The future of mining in Saskatchewan is strong, despite current commodity prices. Our world’s future population will require more food and more clean energy, which means more potash and more uranium demand. This means that the sector continues to invest in exploration to ensure long-term availability and access to resources.
It is pretty easy to see how we can include information and activities about mining into science classes, but today we were able to see how important mining is to our society as a whole. Infusing discussions and decision-making ideas into social studies is just as important. Our minds are already full of possibilities – we can’t wait to learn more through the week on this grand GeoVenture!
Day 2 Uranium and Potash Presentations, Touring BHP Jansen Discovery Lodge and Potash Interpretive Centre, August 18, 2019 -Shana Timoruski (Central Collegiate), Leslie Gardypie (Constable Robin Cameron School) and Christine Matus (Ituna School)
We started the day learning about solution mining in Saskatchewan. Our potash samples, that we had previously started to dissolve the night before, had supersaturated the water. We needed to filter off the impurities (clay, iron oxide, and other excess undiscovered matter) to gain a purer product. After filtering, we took a sample of water and recrystallized the potash, using an ice-water bath. Potash crystallizes as a lower temperature than sodium chloride, so we could extract the potash in crystal form. This is similar to how they extract potassium chloride in solution mines. They collect the solution into tailing ponds and as the temperatures drop in they are able to scoop the crystallized potassium chloride off the bottom of the pond and recycle the water for future solutions. For further enrichment in a class (Chemistry 30 and Physical Science 20) it could be possible to test the crystallized potash to confirm it is potassium and not sodium through a flame test.
We then learned about uranium and uranium mining from NexGen. Troy Boisjoli (Vice President, operations and project development) and James Hatley explained how Uranium is discovered in Saskatchewan and the financial and scientific effort it takes for Uranium exploration. He also focused on the impact NexGen is having in Saskatchewan and how all of the funding being put into Saskatchewan is completely sourced out of Province. NexGen is also working with the Dene community very closely, forming strong relationships with its members. NexGen has a strong program that lets 20 young people working in all of the different facets of mining so they can experience many different careers. From this group of individuals, they award bursaries for schooling and have sent many kids to university. They have also given much back to the community by providing jobs and providing a breakfast program to the school. Uranium mining and exploration have excellent curriculum connections to waves (EM radiation and gravity) and chemical equilibrium(redox reactions).
Wrapping up our initial learning time in Saskatoon, we set out for BHP Jansen Discovery Lodge and started our adventure. Maury Simoneau led us on a tour of the state-of-the-art Discovery Lodge and WOW. It was massive. It had a gym, a theatre, and you could order almost anything that you wanted to eat! So amazing. BHP has invested 250 million dollars into this site without a cent of potash being taken from the ground. The site can hold 2500 people when moving into stage one of setting up the potash mine. They pride themselves on their accommodations and forward thinking in the company.
A long bus ride took us to Esterhazy’s potash interpretive centre next. John and Richard lead us through this museum in great detail. It was very interesting and really helped us learn about potash before we could take our mine tour in Rocanville. We finished off the day with an amazing Ukrainian supper of sausage, perogies and cabbage rolls and called it a night at the Canalta in Esterhazy.
Day 3 Underground Tour of Nutrien Scissors Lake and Coal Presentation, August 19, 2019 - Cindy Yanko (Ituna School) and Jaimie Mack (Churchill High School)
We had a great sleep and a bright and early breakfast at the Canalta Hotel in Esterhazy before hitting the road towards Rocanville at 6:45 am. Along the way, Pam showed us the new K3 site near Esterhazy, which has an exceptionally tall and impressive head frame. Once operational, potash from this new facility will be transported by conveyor belt to the K1 or K2 sites to be milled. As we continued our journey, Pam briefed us on the geological features in the area such as the Qu'Appelle Valley, which developed as the ice melted and retreated during the end of the last ice age.
We arrived at the Scissors Creek site at the Nutrien Rocanville mine around 7:45 am and were informed of the history of the mine and welcomed by Calvin, Amanda, and Leland, who would be leading us on our tour underground. Safety in the mines is of utmost importance, so we suited up into our safety gear first thing. We all looked great in our reflective vests, steel toe boots, goggles, hardhats, and gloves. In addition to the safety clothing, we also had earplugs for hearing protection, and each wore an oxygen breathing apparatus around our waist for use in case of emergency.
After getting geared up, it was time to load into the cage to proceed underground. The cage is like a giant elevator that can comfortably carry 40 people down into the mine. The spectacular ride down took about three minutes and brought us a kilometre below the surface. The size of the underground portion of the mine is massive, taking up about the same amount of space as the city of Saskatoon and boasting the title of the largest potash mine in the world! Approximately two kilometres of fresh ground is opened every day and 200 train cars full of potash are removed - amazing!
During our tour, our guides told us that the mine houses twelve miner machines, each worth 15 million dollars. We had a chance to watch the "Leopard" miner in action as it worked on drilling out a new room in the mine. Afterwards, we had the opportunity to gather samples of potash to bring back to our communities and show to our students. We also checked other areas in the mine, such as the shops where equipment is assembled and maintained, and the refuge areas where workers go in case of emergencies or power failures.
After coming back to the surface, we were treated to a delicious lunch on the mine site and had the chance to learn more from our guides and other experts from the mine. One interesting conversation that came up was about the recent 4.1 magnitude earthquake that occurred nearby. Contrary to what was said on T.V., the tremor wasn't felt underground at the mine, and the power outage on site occurred because of an automatic breaker jump.
We are now en route for Willowbunch where we will have a BBQ supper, get an overview on coal mining, and have a good night's sleep before another jam-packed day tomorrow at the Poplar River mine and Castle Butte!
Day 4 - Coal Strip Mine, CCS Presentaiton and Castle Butte, August 20- Janna Varga (Air Ronge) and Matthew Kampman (Regina)
Today we continued our Geoventure across Saskatchewan. Yet another early morning began as we loaded the bus at 6:30am in Willow Bunch, SK. A last minute walk brought us to an interesting local museum. There we learned of Edouard Beaupre, a local Métis man who had grown to be 8’3”. Edouard was also known as the Willow Bunch Giant... be sure to check out the museum if you’re ever in the area. We then continued on to Coronach for a breakfast at Deb’s kitchen. The cozy dining area, company from Poplar River employees and a hot buffet was well received by all GeoVenturers and Mine employees.
8:00am Upon our arrival at Poplar River Mine we geared up in our PPE (personal protective equipment) and headed to the main building. Ready to learn, explore and sample all that this coal mine had to offer. After a few more introductions we were directed to a meeting room. We settled in for a short, animated safety video that was quite engaging, and then filled out our visitor forms. The mine sites’ employees were obviously proud and ready to share their profession with us, so we all moved on with the tour.
We toured the main building, learning of a mammoth tusk that was found on one of Poplar River sites. Fossils are always cool and they had their fossil proudly on display. We then moved on to their enormous shop.
Pictures were taken and everyone was interested and excited. Everyone loves massive equipment and Poplar Ridge mine has some of the best I’ve ever seen! A giant caterpillar that was having the tracks replaced, 2 loaders with tires 10’ tall and 2 massive coal haulers that you would have to see to believe! This equipment did not disappoint.
Next we headed to the bus to view the Dragline in action, see the reclamation on past sites and of course tour the open pit. Our Poplar Ridge tour guides took turns handling the bus mic and described and pointed out reclaimed fields, past areas that were mined and other interesting facts along the way. We watched the Dragline in action and I’m sure more than a few of us wished we could operate that machine. At the pit we were encouraged to ask questions, explore and collect our own coal samples.
After filling our pockets (Ziploc bags) we headed back for lunch with the crew and a Carbon Capture presentation... more on that from Matthew Kampman of Regina, SK.
Our tour of the Poplar River Mine was capped off with a scrumptious lunch courtesy of the mine, and an engaging presentation from Corwyn Bruce, one of the lead engineers of the carbon capture and storage (CCS) project at Boundary Damn 3. Since the project’s success Corwyn has taken his expertise to an international audience; consulting with coal fired power plants in other countries who stand to benefit from CCS facilities.
Through CCS, Corwyn's team has reduced the CO2 emissions of BD3 by 80 - 90% depending on operating conditions. What an achievement! It remains to be seen whether Bruce's team will be given the green light to outfit the Shand coal fired power station outside of Estevan with the same technology. Nonetheless, CCS has the potential to be implemented in coal fired power plants all around the world. A CCS facility that is bigger than BD3's has already been implemented in Texas. It was a pleasure to hear Corwyn speak and we wish him the best in his efforts to implement CCS technology at home and abroad, helping to both protect the environment and create meaningful employment for those who work at CCS facilities.
After the Poplar River tour we headed east to Castle Butte, part of the Big Muddy. Since I don’t want to ruin your first experience seeing this geographical sight, I’ll simply quote a tour mate...According to James Armstrong of La Ronge, SK, “Castle Butte is cool in every single way. Erosion can’t bring it down.”
Looking forward to Day 5 a potential Uranium filled wonder.
Day 5: Cigar Lake Mine Tour and McLean Lake Mill Tour, August 21 – Al Wandler (Assiniboia), Adam Halyk (Prince Albert) and Kelly Ljunggren (Moose Jaw)
After an early morning wake up call, we met in the lobby at 6AM to head over to Westwind Air terminal to catch our 6:30 flight up to Cigar Lake to begin our day learning about Uranium. Our pilots were very friendly and had breakfast provided on the hour and forty-five minute flight into Northern Saskatchewan. Upon landing we boarded the bus that then took us to Cigar Lake mine. Once there we had a safety orientation and a quick presentation about how the mine operated from the mine operations manager as we had our morning coffee. After the presentation we left to get geared up so we would be safe when we went underground. This included white Tyvek overalls, little cloth booties to make the steel toed rubber boots more bearable, hardhat with lamp, gloves and of course safety goggles. Our guides Stephanie and Imre then took us to the cage that would take us down 480m into the mining tunnels. Although a bit cramped the ride down was quick and cozy. What a difference between the uranium mine and the potash mine. Instead of a dry, warm environment like the potash mine, this was wet and cold. All of the walls were reinforced with concrete and we got a close up view of the New Austrian Tunneling Method. We then got to see the uranium miner (in fact were on it!) and got an outstanding explanation of how it worked. The miner blasts the uranium out of its cavities with water pressured at 15 000 PSI. That’s enough pressure to cut steel! The slurry is then pumped to the surface where it is loaded into specially designed containers that are then trucked to McLean Lake Mill for processing. After returning to the surface we got bussed back to the airport and had a quick lunch on our 15 minute flight to Points North.
At Points North we had a bus waiting for us that took us to McClean Lake Mill. After yet another safety presentation, we got our safety equipment and began our tour of the mill. We broke up into two groups and the general manager, Vincent, and the operations manager, Todd, did a great job of showing us how the milling process works in a short period of time. Essentially, the mill concentrates the uranium that arrives from Cigar Lake and prepares it for transport for refinement in Ontario. Another significant role of the McClean Lake mill is to manage the tailings that are produced from the milling process and we visited the tailing management facility. It was obvious that Vincent was very proud of this facility and he said that no other mine in the world is using these techniques. It was an impressive operation. We went back to the safety station, returned our equipment and then had some light refreshments before jumping back on the bus for the bouncy bus ride back to the air field. We boarded the plane and were back in Saskatoon by 6:30 to conclude our whirlwind day.
There was so much information provided on this day that could be used in the science classroom – especially in chemistry – but when one considers all of the economics that are involved in this industry and the socioeconomic impacts that uranium has on local, provincial and world communities, one could use this information in the social studies classroom as well. It was a great way to end our last full day of the tour!
Day 6: Diamond Lab and Presentation, August 22 - Cindy Weeks (Balgonie), Jocelyn Clark (Unity) and James Armstrong (La Ronge)
After an amazing and exhausting week blitzing around Saskatchewan's major mining operations, it was time for "Diamond Day". We started the day with yet another delicious breakfast, after which we were treated to a nerdtastic presentation on kimberlite mining, courtesy of Rio Tinto and Warren Riemer, one of two impressively tall geologists in the room.
What is kimberlite you ask? In addition to being the likely name of the next Kardashian baby, it's an igneous rock that can contain diamonds; the hypothetical Kardashian baby would likely have its diamonds on the outside.
We learned that the diamonds in kimberlite were formed some time in the late Cretaceous. The hardness of diamonds, setting the high-bar of 10 for the hardest mineral known, is one of its coolest properties! Even though it makes perfect sense, it blew my mind to learn a 30 centimeter drop is enough for one diamond to chip another...completely shatters the trope of a jewel thief doing high impact acrobatics with a pilfered sack of jostling diamonds at their side - they would be ruined!
The value of diamonds comes from their aesthetic, and more importantly, their rarity. Unusual size or rare color can greatly increase value. For instance, Argyle diamonds have a slight twist in their carbon matrix, giving them a rare pink hue. This makes them incredibly rare and valuable!
A portion of the talk was about the FalCon Diamond Project, the exploration of the Fort al a Corne site to determine the grade and quality of the kimberlite 400 meters below. Princess Leia was instrumental in this - her ability to extract 1 ton of ore every 2 minutes made her uniquely suited to the job. She didn't use the Force to do this, she used quality engineering, since she happens to be the "industrial mining cutter" Leia, not the "Han Solo's crush" Leia.
We learned the biggest obstacle for making a profitable mine was the removal of the overburden (that’s the technical term for all the earth on top of the desired ore). Here's hoping the exploration goes well, and the tens of millions of dollars Rio Tinto spends on the site bears fruit!
In the afternoon we went over to SRC Diamond Lab to meet a third impressively tall geologist. It's at this point that I start wondering if geologists are a tall alien species that came to earth to study it. It casts the Willow Bunch giant in a new light… I feel he was likely one of the early alien explorers.
It was incredible to learn that the Saskatoon SRC Diamond Lab is the world's largest diamond lab! Kimberlite from all over the world is assessed there, at an even greater efficiency than the lab in Kimberley South Africa, kimberlite's namesake! Without going into too much detail, this facility is a hotbed of expertise and innovation. I loved seeing the diamond indicator minerals under the microscope - gimmie shinies!
On that note, it was interesting to put the entire vast scope of global diamond production in terms of "finding rare shiny pretties". Every other mining industry we observed revolved around immediate pragmatic use. The diamond market's premium on aesthetic and rarity make their economics closer to a type of collecting, as exists with comics, baseball cards, and stamps: their value is almost entirely subjective! When squaring the colossal efforts and costs with the final product, it's surreal... and worth thinking about.
After the tour was done, our week-long Geoventure tour was concluded. It was a wonderful experience from top to bottom, filled with hospitality and good faith.
11th Annual Saskatchewan Mining Supply Chain Forum
April 3, 2019
The 11th Annual Saskatchewan Mining Supply Chain Forum co-hosted by the Saskatchewan Mining Association, the Saskatchewan Industrial and Mining Suppliers Association and the Saskatchewan Ministry of Trade and Export Development took place April 3 and 4, 2019 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon, SK.
The Forum provided information on current mining operations and projects in Saskatchewan and the related supply chain opportunities for manufacturing companies.
SMA Environmental Forum 2018 is a professional development opportunity for environmental practitioners in the mining industry, consulting businesses, post-secondary researchers and government. With changing regulations and evolving technology it is important for environmental professionals to keep current, and move forward, in developing and identifying best practices related to environmental sustainability.
Following is the Agenda along with the presentations:
Following is the 2018 SMA GeoVenture Blog August 19 - 24 Day 1 Orientation and Welcome BBQ, August 19, 2018
GeoVenture 2018 kicked off with an Orientation Workshop which included Introductions; Itinerary review; Curriculum Link Outline; Introduction to Rocks and Minerals; Overview of Saskatchewan Mining Industry; distribution of curriculum-related material.
The day finished off with a Drill and Grill dinner at Saskatoon Inn attended by SMA Board members.
Day 2 Potash - Solution (Mosaic Belle Plaine and Potash Interpretive Centre), August 20, 2018
By John Nicholson, St. Joseph High School, Saskatoon and Majak Mapiour, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon
We had a nice breakfast at the Saskatoon Inn and boarded the bus for the Mosaic potash mine at Belle Plaine. This mine is the largest solution mine in the world and produces more potash per year than the United States. It also generates its own electricity and consumes as much natural gas per year as the city of Moose Jaw. The 64 km2 mine site has about 1900 km of underground pipes that pump hot water down 1500 m to dissolve the potash. Belle Plaine mine consumes 19 000 L per minute (24/7) and all is kept on site.
What is potash?
Potash is the name given to potassium compounds and potassium containing materials, the most common of which is KCl. The name comes from the middle Dutch potaschen which means pot ash, referring to its original production of soaking wood ash in pots. The name of the element potassium comes from potash. Potash ore is a mixture of KCl, NaCl, Fe2O3, clay and other trace salts.
There are two ways to mining potash: conventional mining and solution mining. In Mosaic Belle Plaine solution mining is used. Natural gas is burned to turn water to steam. The steam is put through two turbines to generate electricity. 90% of power needed to run the plant is produced on site and the rest is supplied by SaskPower. The steam exits the turbines as hot water, which is then pumped into the cavern to mine KCl. The recovered brine solution from underground is sent to either the refinery or the cooling ponds.
In the refinery, the brine solution is pumped to the evaporators (8 in total), where steam is used to evaporates some of the water causing the NaCl to settle out of the solution. Then the stream is directed to the crystallizers to recover KCl. Subsequently, the wet KCl is dewatered, dried, sized, compacted, and/or stored. The cooling ponds use natural evaporation to settle out the KCl. Two dredges are used to recover the KCl from the ponds.
Potash Interpretive Centre, Esterhazy, SK
After our drive from Belle Plaine Potash Mine, we arrived in Esterhazy at about 7:00. We were treated to a wonderful, homemade Ukrainian supper of perogies, cabbage rolls, and Grayson sausage at the Esterhazy Bowl Arena. Socializing and interacting with the others in our group was a very nice touch to the evening as we all sat together at one large, square table, where we were served our supper.
We then walked over to the Potash Interpretive Centre. Outside of the centre there was a tall, 20 foot statue of a miner and an old train car out on the front lawn. When we entered the centre, we were greeted by our tour guides who were retired employees of the mine. We learned about the backbone of the Esterhazy economy, which is potash.
The interpretive centre is a great place to go to learn about the history of the potash industry and how it is important not only to the people of the area, but also all around the world. The information was displayed through murals, maps of the local mines and the patterns they used for mining, a life-sized diorama of the area being mined, miniature models of the equipment used, and videos.
We learned about the construction of the mines and how the technology has changed throughout the years. Where once there was a lot more physical labour, many of the mines operations are carried through by computers and automation. Safety measures are also considered more effectively than in the past.
The Potash Interpretive Centre is an excellent place to visit to experience what a working potash mine is like, without actually being able to visit a mine.
Day 3 Potash – Conventional Underground (Mosaic Esterhazy K1 & K2), August 21, 2018
A Mine Called K1
By Melanie Charnetski, Eaton School, Eatonia; Lanna Abbott, Lumsden High School; Violet Dubitz, SMA
Now this is the story all about how,
We learned about mining underground.
We’d like to take a minute,
Just sit right down,
We’ll tell you how we became the queens of a mine called K1.
In Southeast Saskatchewan, born and praised,
In Esterhazy is where spent one full day.
Gearing up, maxin’, descending all cool,
Traversing the tunnels, gettin’ all schooled,
When a couple of guys, who were up to some good,
Took us on a tour of their neighbourhood.
We got in some good sights, and we weren’t even scared,
Brad said, “Take as many potash samples as you dare.”
We whistled for a ride, and when it came near,
We thought to ourselves, “What a career!”
If anything we could say this trip was rare,
And we thought, “Time for the mill, yo holmes, to the stairs!”
We arrived at the mill around 12:08,
And we learned about size and importance of grade.
They showed us their kingdom, our tour was done,
Thank you, best wishes to the mine called K1!