BHP delaying decision on Saskatchewan potash project

Jansen mine decision to be delayed by a few months

A view of BHP’s potash mine project north of Jansen, Sask. (BHP.com)

Melbourne | Reuters — BHP Group expects to present its board with a decision on whether to proceed with its Jansen potash project in Saskatchewan in a few months’ time — rather than mid-year — after choosing between two port options, an executive said on Thursday.

The world’s biggest miner has estimated the project at Jansen, about 45 km southeast of Humboldt, would cost up to $5.7 billion in its first phase (all figures US$). The project offers diversification into agriculture markets given that potash is a key element in plant nutrition that also makes crops more drought resistant.

“We are considering two options in terms of the port. One is a commercial option at the port of Vancouver, one is a greenfield option,” said Ragnar Udd, president of BHP’s Minerals America.

“We would like to have those locked in before we take them to the board,” he said.

“We continue to expect that this (decision) will occur in the next, coming few months.”

The miner expects the project will take five years to develop and have an annual production capacity of around 4.4 million tonnes of potash in its first phase. It will have capacity for an additional 12 million tonnes in stages thereafter for a life of 100 years.

Udd was speaking to investors about the outlook for the potash market, for which BHP expects demand to catch up with supply by late this decade or early next.

BHP estimated global production of potash was 76 million tonnes in 2020, which could rise to 86 million when factoring in latent capacity.

It expects demand to grow by 15 million tonnes to around 105 million by 2040, or 1.5 to three per cent a year, along with the global population and pressure to improve farming yields given limited land supply.

BHP sees operational expenditure at the Jansen potash mine at $100 per tonne and sustaining capital expenditure at $15 per tonne. It sees incentive pricing for new projects at $300 to $500 a tonne, with Canada the main supplier.

— Reporting for Reuters by Melanie Burton.

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