The Legacy Project will soon mark one year of mining even though production will not begin until the end of this year.
On March 5, 2015, K+S Potash Canada (KSPC) announced the Legacy Project had reached a major milestone with the launch of early cavern development (ECD). ECD uses the mine’s powerful pumping system to inject raw water into the mile-deep caverns and return the resulting salt brine. ECD started with 18 caverns beneath wellpads 2 and 3 and has been expanded to include an additional 18 caverns under wellpads 4 and 5.
“We’re right on schedule,’’ says Sam Farris, Vice President and General Manager of Operations at KSPC. “Some of the caverns are ready for hot water mining and the others are in various stages of development.’’ Farris says it takes about a year to grow a cavern large enough to provide feed to the process plant, which will be phased into operation using wellpads 2 and 3 followed by 4 and 5.
“2016 is the year everything comes together,’’ says Farris. “This is a big year.’’
Legacy #1 drilling rig floor, looking up into the derrick as the drill pipe is being connected.
While ECD uses cold water to grow caverns, primary mining uses hot water to create a solution that maximizes potash content, according to Trevor Dyck, Manager, Production at KSPC. “After about three months of hot water mining of those four pads, we’ll be ready for our first potash production at the end of the year,’’ says Dyck, adding that much preparation, including personnel hiring and training as well as completion of the remaining process plant systems, must take place before production can occur.
Work on wellpads 6 and 7 is underway with ECD scheduled to begin in spring, says Darren Hrynkiw, Manager, Wellfield at KSPC. Last year, Hrynkiw received approval to begin construction on wellpads 8 and 9, the first to be built by KSPC.
“Wellpads 6 and 7 signify the end of drilling for the Legacy Project,’’ says Hrynkiw. “From now on, we’re drilling to sustain ongoing operation for K+S.’’
ECD and startup require stable operation of equipment and systems as well as staff who are familiar with the equipment they must maintain, repair and occasionally replace. Marc Colombet, Manager, Maintenance and Reliability at KSPC, says his department is just wrapping up the complex task of identifying and purchasing about $40 million worth of spare parts.
“ECD is a running operation and one of the most important things we had to do in 2015,’’ says Colombet. “Now, one of the critical steps to ensure the success of startup is to buy our spare parts.’’
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