November 2007

Saskatchewan’s mineral industry

Catalyst for the renaissance of the province’s economy

By P. Schwann, executive director, Saskatchewan Mining Association Inc.

P. Schwann, executive director, Saskatchewan Mining Association Inc.

The statement that Saskatchewan is a global mining powerhouse does not come as a surprise to people watching the markets these days. While very few jurisdictions can claim to be the world’s leading producer in one commodity, Saskatchewan is the world’s leading producer in two – potash and uranium, accounting for approximately one-third of the total world production for both commodities. With the growing global demand for both potash and uranium, safe and responsible mining will remain a foundation for Saskatchewan’s growth and prosperity for many years to come.

The Saskatchewan mining industry has a strong presence across the fabric of the province, and with the growth of the mining industry, there is mounting confidence in the province’s economic prospects. Our industry has a continuum of projects in the pipeline through the grassroots exploration, advanced exploration, development, and production stages, some of which are featured in this CIM issue. The mining and agricultural sectors are now virtually tied for second in relation to contributions to the province’s gross domestic product (GDP) after oil and gas. Mining contributes over $2 billion annually in wages, goods, and services and supports over 22,000 jobs in over 50 communities across the province. It is also a creator of wealth through employment, business, and investment opportunities for many Saskatchewan residents.

With the head offices of industry leaders such as PotashCorp, Cameco, AREVA Resources Canada, and a growing stable of mineral exploration, mineral service sector companies, and research facilities, Saskatchewan is becoming recognized as a mining centre of excellence.

Safety and the environment

The safety of people and protection of the environment are foundations of our industry. With respect to safety, our industry’s success in this area is reflected by consistently having significantly lower accident rate numbers than the provincial average. As examples of the Saskatchewan mining industry’s commitment to excellence in safety, the Mosaic Potash Esterhazy K1 Operation won the national John T. Ryan Trophy in the Select Mine Category this year, presented for the lowest injury frequency rating during 2006. Previous winners of the John T. Ryan Trophies have included AREVA’s Cluff Lake Mine and Cameco’s McArthur River Mine. At the 2007 Western Regional Mine Rescue Emergency Response Competition in Fernie BC, Saskatchewan mines again displayed their commitment to safety training and expertise as Mosaic Colonsay won the overall underground competition and Mosaic Belle Plaine won the fire fighting event. More recently, Mosaic Potash Colonsay won the competition at the Provincial Industrial Fire and Rescue Competition in Regina, SK. While the awards signify excellence among our industry peers, the best reward is that at the end of the day everyone goes home safely to their families.

The mining industry in Saskatchewan is also committed to being environmentally responsible to ensure protection of the environment for now and for future generations. Decommissioning and reclamation of mines is a standard practice, with industry providing financial bonds to government to cover these costs. As a testament to the long-term commitment to the environment, the mining community in Saskatchewan worked with government to develop a perpetual care fund that will finance long-term monitoring of mine sites that have returned to the stewardship of the provincial government after decommissioning and reclamation of these sites by industry has been completed. This fund will be established by mine operators and administered by the province. A major milestone was the passing of the provincial government’s Reclaimed Industrial Sites Act in May 2006. The Act is expected to come into force in 2007 and form the basis of permanent institutional control over decommissioned mine sites on Crown land.

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