Monday 24th October 2016

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Posts tagged ‘Agrium Inc (AGU)’

All 39 Vale miners surface after underground fire at Thompson

April 6th, 2015

by Greg Klein | April 6, 2015

No injuries were reported after the last of 39 miners returned following a fire at Vale’s (NYSE:VALE) Thompson, Manitoba nickel operation, the Winnipeg Free Press reported April 6. The blaze broke out in remote-controlled machinery 850 metres underground around 3:30 p.m. the previous day. Miners waited out the ordeal in refuge stations stocked with oxygen and supplies for an extended period.

All 39 Vale miners surface after underground fire at Thompson

A Vale file photo shows Thompson
employees in rescue gear.

Workers in an adjoining mine also took refuge but surfaced Sunday night. Others were stuck until early Monday afternoon, when air quality was deemed satisfactory.

Vale’s Manitoba operations consist of the Thompson and Birchtree mines, the Thompson mill, Thompson smelter and Thompson refinery. They employ about 1,500 people, the company states.

In November 2013, the Free Press reported Vale faced 10 charges under Manitoba’s Workplace Safety and Health Act resulting from the death of a Thompson miner in 2011.

Last week CBC reported three Sudbury employees of Vale face 17 charges under Ontario legislation following a fatality last year at the Copper Cliff smelter.

A September fire at PotashCorp’s (TSX:POT) Allan mine in Saskatchewan trapped 96 miners underground, some of them for more than 36 hours. Another fire the previous February kept more than 50 Agrium TSX:AGU workers in refuge stations overnight.

Miners safe after another Saskatchewan potash fire

September 11th, 2014

by Greg Klein | September 11, 2014

All 96 workers have returned to safety after Saskatchewan’s second potash project fire in eight days. No injuries were reported. But the last miners didn’t resurface until 8:30 p.m. local time September 11. Their shift started at 7 a.m. the previous day.

The blaze started at 4 p.m. September 10 in the engine of an underground water truck at PotashCorp’s (TSX:POT) Allan mine, according to a Canadian Press story published by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. Most miners moved to refuge stations equipped with food, water and communications. But others, caught in dead-end sections of the mine, used a “battice,” described by CP as a curtain to seal themselves off. Those workers had no provisions other than their lunch buckets.

Miners safe after another Saskatchewan potash fire

The Allan fire was Saskatchewan’s fourth underground
potash mine blaze since September 2012.

After an emergency crew put down the fire and cleared smoke, CP stated, about half the miners made their way out the night of September 10. But others were then stranded by a power failure that shut down air circulation fans and communications.

Ron St. Pierre, president of the site’s United Steelworkers local, was working above ground as a hoist operator when the fire broke out. He described some of the evacuees as “grouchy and hungry,” according to CP. “There’s not much to do but play cards or sleep, he said.”

CBC reported the last three workers got out around 8:30 p.m., September 11.

On September 2 a surface fire broke out at PotashCorp’s Cory mill, also in Saskatchewan. The cause is being investigated.

Last February a fire at Agrium’s (TSX:AGU) Vanscoy potash mine trapped over 50 underground workers overnight.

In January 2013 all 318 miners made it to safety after a fire at Mosaic’s (NYE:MOS) K2 mine.

At Rocanville, another PotashCorp mine, a September 2012 fire trapped 20 workers for 17 hours. At the time the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union attributed over 50 fatalities to Saskatchewan’s potash industry “since its inception in the late 1950s.”

Saskatchewan mining: Cigar Lake resumes, fire at PotashCorp, TFWs at potash project

September 5th, 2014

by Greg Klein | September 5, 2014

Cameco restarts Cigar Lake, strike continues at McArthur River/Key Lake

Production has resumed at Cameco Corp’s (TSX:CCO) Cigar Lake uranium operation, according to a September 4 Reuters report. Mining was suspended in mid-July to reinforce a process of freezing the rock with a brine solution to prevent flooding. The world’s highest-grade uranium mine after Cameco’s McArthur River, Cigar Lake finally began operations in March after numerous delays.

The company has stated the mine’s annual target of 18 million pounds U3O8 by 2018 “will not be impacted.”

Meanwhile McArthur River and the Key Lake mill remain on suspension due to a labour dispute. Management and union have yet to resume talking, according to media reports. By press time Cameco media relations manager Rob Gereghty hadn’t responded to a request for confirmation.

Cameco holds a 50.025% interest in Cigar Lake, a joint venture with AREVA Resources Canada (37.1%), Idemitsu Canada Resources (7.875%) and TEPCO Resources (5%). Cameco has a 70% stake in McArthur River and 83% in Key Lake, with AREVA holding the rest.

Fire shuts down PotashCorp’s Cory facility

Saskatchewan mining Cigar Lake resumes, PotashCorp fire, TFWs at potash project

A fire at PotashCorp’s Cory facility suspended
operations but won’t affect production targets.

No one was injured but a fire forced PotashCorp TSX:POT to suspend operations at its Cory mill in southern Saskatchewan on September 2. “There will be no material impact on operations,” a spokesperson told Industrial Minerals. The fire’s cause is under investigation.

The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported the fire broke out on the mill’s roof. In the past, workers have been trapped by underground fires in Saskatchewan potash mines.

Employee-owned company dumps Canadians in favour of TFWs at Agrium project

Canadian workers at another southern Saskatchewan potash mine were laid off while temporary foreign workers stayed on, according to reports that surfaced earlier this week. Alliance Energy let go about 50 Canadian electricians working on an expansion of Agrium’s (TSX:AGU) Vanscoy operation. Alliance retained 30 to 40 TFWs. Company president Bryan Leverick told CBC the layoffs were “based on merit.”

CBC stated Ottawa is investigating the company, which was given permission to hire foreign workers before the rules were tightened up.

Alliance describes itself as “an employee-owned company.”

Read more about temporary foreign workers in Canadian mines here and here.

Potash in perspective

February 21st, 2014

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

by Greg Klein

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

As the world’s population grows, arable land shrinks, causing greater demand for fertilizer.


It’s an opportunity best characterized as “a marathon, not a sprint.” That’s how Western Potash TSX:WPX VP of corporate development John Costigan refers to his company’s Milestone project. The high-grade potash solution mine proposed for southern Saskatchewan achieved full feasibility in December 2012 and final environmental approval last April. Then came tumultuous times, with what Costigan calls the “Russian-Belarusian debacle” that took down the commodity’s price. Now, with solid Asian investment and indications of a market revival, the advanced-stage project might be seen as an early-stage opportunity emerging anew.

Understandably, enthusiasm for potash plunged with the price following Uralkali’s breakup with cartel partner Belaruskali last summer. Late last year, however, JP Morgan pronounced a more optimistic outlook for 2014. By January analysts were saying prices might have bottomed in the Chinese contracts signed by Uralkali and Canpotex, the marketing arm of PotashCorp TSX:POT, Agrium TSX:AGU and Mosaic NYE:MOS.

More recent news suggests funding’s picking up. On February 18 Verde Potash TSX:NPK reported significant progress in its application for US$105 million in loans, grants and investment from the Brazilian government for the company’s Cerrado Verde project. Six days earlier came news that fertilizer giant ICL was buying a $25-million stake in Allana Potash TSX:AAA, with potential up to $84 million, along with an offtake agreement for the company’s Danakhil project in Ethiopia. Last June Western got a $31.98-million cash injection from a Chinese joint venture.

The attraction was the full-feas, fully permitted Milestone. The operation calls for solution mining, in which water is pumped into underground caverns and then retrieved as potash-rich brine. A relatively simple but highly effective technique, solution mining would allow Western to build the greenfield operation in about 40 months.

The long-term outlook and an advanced-stage project bring Asian interest to Western Potash

Just 60 kilometres away the same approach is being taken by the giant K+S Group. Now under construction, the Legacy project is scheduled to begin potash solution mining in 2016.

Milestone benefits from Saskatchewan’s mining-friendly policies and rich infrastructure. Two continental railways pass through the 35,400-hectare property, as do roads, power and gas lines. An agreement with the city of Regina, 30 kilometres away, provides a supply of treated waste water to extract the potash—enough water, in fact, to flush out 2.8 million tonnes per year for the mine’s projected 40-year life.

Those benefits have already attracted a $31.98-million investment from CBC (Canada) Holding Corp, a JV comprised of fertilizer producer China BlueChemical and Benewood Holdings, a subsidiary of the Hong Kong investment firm Guoxin International Investment Corp. The deal comes with a 20-year offtake agreement for the lesser of 30% of Milestone’s production or a million tonnes a year.

With a 19.9% stake in Western, CBCHC plays an active role in the strategic alliance. One China BlueChemical appointee serves on Western’s board and another acts as an observer. The alliance has struck two six-person committees, one to study Milestone’s technical, construction and procurement details and another to recommend financing strategies, meet potential financiers and evaluate proposals.

The alliance brings technical synergies. It also offers potential financial flexibility that could help the junior put together the $2.91-billion capex—a considerable sum but substantially less than K+S is spending 60 kilometres away. One possible Milestone scenario could involve Chinese investment banks which, Costigan points out, can structure finance agreements with a 3:1 debt-to-equity ratio. With one or more additional partners, Western could make the transition to a potash producer.

The company already has mining expertise, most notably with project director Richard Lock. In fact his career has been based on projects much more challenging than a southern Saskatchewan solution mine. While with Rio Tinto NYE:RIO, Lock took the Northwest Territories’ Diavik diamond mine from exploration to production. Among other accomplishments, he also acted as project director for Arizona’s Resolution project, now in pre-feasibility and potentially North America’s largest copper mine.

As for potential partners, discussions have picked up, Costigan says. “There’s renewed interest now. People think the market has settled. If we see prices rise, there’ll be even greater interest.”

The commodity’s long-term fundamentals remain strong, he says. Nothing’s stopping population growth. Meanwhile the global decline of arable land calls for ever-higher crop yields.

“Look at the growth in Chinese potash consumption—it’s definitely why our partners came in,” Costigan says. “They recognize they’re going to see big increases in their consumption. China’s ramping up their domestic supplies, they’re in Thailand, Africa, Kazakhstan. But when you look at the projects out there, there’s nothing that compares with Milestone for volume, quality, cost, location, infrastructure and political stability. There’s nothing that compares globally.”

Saskatchewan potash miners safe after fire at Agrium’s Vanscoy operation

February 15th, 2014

by Greg Klein | February 15, 2014

Over 50 Saskatchewan underground workers surfaced safely February 15 after a fire trapped them overnight in Agrium’s TSX:AGU Vanscoy mine, Canadian Press reports. The news agency says the blaze started on a scoop tram the previous night. Workers waited out the ordeal in refuge shelters stocked with food, water and emergency supplies.

Trapped Saskatchewan potash miners safe after fire at Agrium’s Vanscoy operation

“They’re a self-contained shelter,” CP quoted the mine’s general manager, Mike Dirham. “They just need to go in and close the doors and wait for emergency response personnel.”

Even after firefighters doused the blaze the trapped miners waited hours longer for the mine to ventilate. No injuries were reported.

In July a 25-year-old man died while erecting a scaffold at the mine. A May 2010 accident killed another Vanscoy worker.

In September 2012, 20 PotashCorp TSX:POT workers spent 17 hours trapped by a fire at the Rocanville mine in Saskatchewan. In a statement at the time the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union said, “The potash industry has seen more than 50 fatalities in Saskatchewan since its inception in the late 1950s.”

Mosaic buys CF Industries’ phosphate business for $1.4 billion

October 28th, 2013

by Cecilia Jamasmie | October 28, 2013 | Reprinted by permission of

Mosaic buys fellow fertilizer producer CF Industries’ phosphate business for $1.4 billion

Mosaic operates a potash mining facility
near Colonsay, Saskatchewan.

Mosaic NYE:MOS said October 28 it has reached a definitive agreement to buy the Florida phosphate business of fellow fertilizer producer CF Industries NYE:CF for $1.4 billion.

The Minnesota-based company, until now primarily focused on potash, will pay $1.2 billion cash to acquire the South Pasture mine and related assets plus $200 million to fund CF’s asset retirement obligation.

The acquisition is expected to add approximately $0.30 per share to Mosaic’s 2015 earnings per share, excluding any debt financing costs and any changes to outstanding share count, the company said.

The firm, a member of the Canpotex group of potash-exporting companies, said CF will contribute one million tonnes a year of ammonia, a nitrogen product used in making finished phosphate products. This will allow Mosaic to abandon its plans to build a $1.1-billion ammonia manufacturing plant in Louisiana.

Potash is one of the main ingredients for making agricultural fertilizer, which is used to promote crop growth. Phosphate and nitrogen are the other two key components.

CF was the object of an unsuccessful hostile takeover attempt several years ago by Calgary-based Agrium Inc NYE:AGU, another member of the Canpotex potash-marketing group.

Shares in CF were trading almost 3.7% higher at $217.28 at 11:16 a.m. ET October 28.

Reprinted by permission of