Agrium restarts potash output at Sask. mine

(Photo courtesy Agrium)

Fertilizer and ag retail giant Agrium has restarted potash production at its west-central Saskatchewan mine after a months-long expansion-related shutdown.

Calgary-based Agrium said Wednesday its site at Vanscoy, about 25 km southwest of Saskatoon, is back in business after completion of what it called a “major turnaround” to tie in a one million-tonne expansion project.

The Vanscoy facility is expected to ramp up production during the first half of the new year, Agrium said. The site’s target production volume for 2015 is “unchanged,” at 2.1 million tonnes.

“Turnarounds,” in industry-speak, are usually scheduled shutdowns for maintenance and/or capital projects. But the turnaround has been underway at Vanscoy since late July, after the main hoist system in the potash mine “experienced a mechanical failure.”

Production was shut down at the mine as a result, but Agrium decided then to bring forward its already-planned turnaround to tie in its capacity expansion project, and to keep the mine offline until the tie-in was complete.

Brownfield expansion at the site has been underway since 2012, with the aim of boosting its annual production capacity by about 50 per cent. The nameplate capacity would thus rise to three million tonnes for the Vanscoy mine, which has operated since 1969.

Then-CEO Mike Wilson said in late 2011 that a Vanscoy expansion would “ultimately be much quicker to bring on, and significantly less expensive to develop, than any greenfield project that is under consideration.” — Network


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