There are significant hurdles to overcome when planning a transportation system for the first greenfield potash mine in Saskatchewan in almost 40 years. For example, there are no facilities in place at the West Coast to receive and handle the millions of tonnes of potash the Legacy mine will be producing in future years. In addition, the mine site is located about 40 km from a rail network capable of transporting product to port.
Today, the transportation plan is coming together and all elements are scheduled to be in place when the mine begins production in the latter part of 2016. And while starting from scratch took a great deal of work and planning, it did bring benefits. One of them relates to the new 30 km Belle Plaine Spur line that Canadian Pacific (CP) is constructing to link the Legacy mine to its rail network near Belle Plaine.
“With a unit train loop track and high speed loading capabilities, the Legacy Project will have the most modern rail infrastructure of all the Saskatchewan potash mines,” says John Brooks, Vice President Marketing & Sales Bulk for Canadian Pacific. “CP’s expertise in the efficient movement of bulk products and our ability to offer the shortest route from the mine to K+S’s domestic and export markets make us a natural transportation partner.”
Eric Cline, Vice President Corporate Social Activity for K+S Potash Canada (KSPC), says the new Belle Plaine Spur represents a substantial investment by CP and brings a note of optimism to a rural Saskatchewan where rail line abandonment and other reduced services are often the norm.
“The spur line is a symbol of the vibrant economic activity that’s happening in the Bethune region,” says Cline.
In addition to the new spur line, KSPC and CP entered into a logistics agreement in 2013 that gives the railroad an exclusive, long-term, volume-based contract for carrying Legacy’s potash products to a western Canadian port— which has since been determined to be Port Moody, B.C. The trains that will haul Legacy potash through the Rocky Mountains and on to Port Moody two times each week will be impressive in length.
“The freight trains will consist of a mind-boggling 177 cars pulled across the Rockies by five locomotives, adding up to a total length of about 2.6 kilometres,” says Steffen Brill, Senior Manager, Logistics and Supply Chain Management for KSPC. “Each trip of about 1,800 km will take three to four days,” adds Brill.
He says the trains will be unloaded automatically into a warehouse or directly onto a ship. According to an agreement signed last year between KSPC and Pacific Coast Terminals Co. Ltd. (PCT), the parties will construct a new railcar unloading station, new covered conveyor systems, systems to control dust emissions and a new warehouse. PCT will handle operations. Brill, who’s stationed in Vancouver, says KSPC will have access to some of PCT’s existing equipment, including a ship loader. Depending on terms of sale, KSPC will also be involved in shipping potash, he says. However, the company has not yet entered into any agreements with shipping companies.
At 160,000 tonnes capacity, the new Port Moody warehouse will be about three football fields in length and provide storage space equivalent to nine trainloads of potash. Commissioning and mechanical completion of the new facilities are scheduled for fall 2016.
PCT organized an open house in Port Moody in September to publicize details of the new project, which is expected to generate about 300 construction jobs and 60 permanent jobs in the west coast community.