A company exploring its potash claim in southern New Brunswick now aims to enter the fertilizer processing and export business, proposing a $350 million specialty fertilizer plant at Saint John.
Atlantic Potash Corp., which since late 2011 has held the mineral rights for about 103 square km of the Millstream potash deposit between Saint John and Moncton, said Monday it proposes to build a plant on about 100 acres of land in the city's McAllister Industrial Park.
The plant would produce three "potash-based" specialty fertilizers, including urea, potassium nitrate and ammonium chloride, with the potash to be "supplied locally."
"Our plan with this new facility is to produce and export 380,000 tons annually of the highest-quality fertilizers from Saint John to buyers in markets including Europe and South America," company director Keith Attoe said in a release.
Atlantic Potash expects to spend the next 24 months undertaking mandatory regulatory approvals, including an environmental impact assessment (EIA), and would start construction about two years after the EIA process is approved. The plant's operations at Saint John would then be expected to start in 2017.
The company said its fertilizer manufacturing process will involve a "unique, patented production technology that produces the highest quality product in an environmentally friendly way" with the "lowest energy consumption in the industry."
Its production facilities would be virtually "closed" systems, reusing resources wherever possible, such as carbon dioxide, and "significantly" reducing waste water by recirculating its process solution.
Attoe, in the company's release, credited the available Saint John-area workforce, the local mining opportunities and the city's deep-water port as the "determining factors" in its decision to invest further in New Brunswick.
Atlantic Potash said it will explore its potash claim in the Millstream deposit over the next 36 months.
Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash, with the "vast majority" of its potash reserves found in Saskatchewan. In New Brunswick, the company said, high-grade sources of the crop nutrient can be found below sedimentary rocks near Sussex, northeast of Saint John, in reserves about 300 to 1,000 metres underground, ranging from about five to 20 metres in thickness.
The company has estimated about 256 million tonnes of potash-bearing ore at that location, enough to keep a mine operating for about 13 to 15 years, assuming a recovery of potassium chloride of about 30 per cent.
Saskatoon-based PotashCorp, the world's biggest potash producer and fertilizer company by capacity, already operates a conventional potash mine at Sussex, running at a depth of about 400 to 700 metres, with annual production capacity of about 800,000 tonnes.
PotashCorp runs about 95 per cent of its Sussex output by rail to its Saint John port terminal for export; the remainder is trucked or railed out to domestic customers.