Skip to content

NEWS: Regina sells its water for potash mining

The Regina Leader-Post reports that the City of Regina and Western Potash Corp. have signed a 45-year agreement for the City’s wastewater to be sold for the company’s proposed Milestone potash mine.

The news report explains, “Under the agreement, the Vancouver-based company will have access to 60,000 cubic metres per day of treated effluent for the first six years and 42,240 cubic metres for the remaining 39 years. As part of the agreement, Western paid the City of Regina a $500,000 commitment fee, while annual payments to the city will be worth more than $200 million throughout the agreement’s 45-year term. The company will fund the construction of the pipeline and associated infrastructure to deliver the treated effluent water to the mine site located.”

BNWnews adds, “Currently, (the city’s treated sewage water) is deposited into the nearby Wascana River. …The agreement would see roughly half of the city of Regina’s treated waste water piped approximately 35 kilometres to the Milestone project site, which is southeast of Saskatchewan’s capital. …After it arrives at the Milestone mine site, the water will be further purified before it’s put to work. And when it’s flushed back to surface — along with the potash — in the form of a brine-like solution, the water will be evaporated.”

The potash will then be exported to markets like India and China where it’s a key ingredient in fertilizer. It should be noted that phosphorous is found in fertilizer and that excess amounts of phosphorus leads to algae blooms and consequently hypoxia, or oxygen depletion of water.

CTV Regina notes, “A city report says diverting the effluent would improve the quality of water in Wascana Creek and downstream lakes. However, the report also warns that fish habitat in the creek could be impacted by reduced stream flow. Still, the city says the improvement in water quality may mitigate any effects on fish habitat. If federal and provincial environmental regulators determine additional mitigation is required, Western Potash would have to cover the cost of those measures.”

BNWnews says, “A full environmental impact assessment of the pending diversion of the treated effluent is still being conducted (and is expected to be concluded this month), but all parties involved are confident that this sustainable business model will get regulatory approval.” If approved the mine could begin construction in 2013 or 2014 and become operational in 2016.

The City of Regina will receive a total of $228 million for the provision of water over the 45-year period of the water-licensing partnership (about $5 million a year), while it has been estimated that the mine will generate $1 billion in revenue per year.

Increasingly, the sale of wastewater for industrial use is being presented as a sustainable and green option. This past September, Shell funded $11 million of a $12.5 million wastewater treatment plant in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. In exchange, Shell will be able to pipe up to 5,000 cubic-metres a day of wastewater from the town 45-kilometres away for its Groundbirch fracking operations for the next ten years. And in San Jose del Progreso, Mexico, a subsidiary of the Vancouver-based mining company Fortuna Silver paid $1 million to restore the Ocotlan Grey Water Treatment Plant and will pay up to $45,000 a month for its operation over the next 15 years. In exchange, the company will receive 600 cubic metres of water per day brought to the mine by truck.

The Council of Canadians will continue to follow this issue. Our next major conference/ annual general meeting will be held in Saskatoon on October 25-27, 2013, http://canadians.org/blog/?p=17599.