The Mosaic Company has announced the immediate closure of the K1 and K2 potash mine shafts in Esterhazy.
Closing the K1 and K2 are key pieces of the transition to the K3 mine shaft, which has seen its completion date increase by nine months.
Sarah Fedorchuck, the vice-president of government and public affairs for North American with The Mosaic Company, explained their decision to close the mines.
“We closed the K1 and K2 potash mine shafts in Esterhazy due to a recent acceleration of brine inflow. The foundation of our Esterhazy transition plan is to eliminate this risk and substantial cost by shifting potash production from the existing mines to K3. As part of our phased inflow exit strategy, we began a controlled withdrawal last year, with the final sprint initiated in January when pumping and grouting were further reduced,” she said. “As expected, we began to see increased inflow rates with lessened mitigation. Recently, inflow volumes have risen faster than our models predicted. We knew these mines were nearing end of life because of inflow, and Mother Earth operates on its own timetable. In the context of 36 years of management, nine months off is pretty good.”
The company is planning to resume production at the Colonsay potash mine and recalling workers as soon as practical to offset a portion of the production lost by the early closure of the K1 and K2 shafts.
As for the K1 and K2 mines employees, Fedorchuck said that they would begin assisting with the K3 mine shaft.
“We will be sending employees to K3 earlier than planned to assist with the ramp-up and do not foresee any immediate impacts to our Mosaic workforce resulting from this change,” she noted. “There will likely be some impact to contractors.”
As for the K3 shaft itself, Fedorchuck said that everything is still on schedule.
“K3 remains on-track to have two fully operational mine shafts in early 2022; the second shaft is currently being readied for production with consistent production already coming from the completed north shaft.”
By March of 2022, the company’s annualized potash production could increase by 2 million tonnes from 2020 levels as Esterhazy K3 ramps up to full capacity.
“Mosaic has been managing inflows at Esterhazy since 1985 and has accelerated the development of the K3 shafts to allow for the ultimate closure of the K1 and K2 shafts,” said Joc O’Rourke, President and Chief Executive Officer. “For the last decade, we’ve run scenarios that relate to the early closure of these shafts. As a result of that planning, we expect to end up in a stronger position than ever in 2022.”