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7 Jun 2016

Leader-Post

BRUCE JOHNSTONE

Fight heats up on Yancoal mine

Critics worried about water use, greenhouse gases

 

A battle is brewing in the Qu’Appelle Valley over the proposed $3.6-billion Yancoal potash solution mine near Southey, which is opposed by a group of environmentalists concerned about lack of public consultation, long-term water supply, deep wastewater injection and downstream impacts.

The Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association (QVEA) released its five-point position paper Monday, the last day that public comments can be submitted on Yancoal’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

Jim Harding, spokesman for QVEA, said Yancoal’s EIS was released April 23, with the deadline for final public comments set for May 24, which was extended due to the election to June 6.

“(We) don’t think that 30 days or the added 15 days is sufficient for the kind of public education and discussion (needed) about a 100year water diversion project in this province and in this vulnerable watershed,” said Harding, a former professor of human justice at the University of Regina.

“This (project) should be taken off the fast track immediately,’’ Harding added, noting the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Review panel took two years to complete its technical assessment of the project.

He alo raised concern about the carbon footprint of the project, which QVEA claims would generate another 1.09-million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) per year, which are already the highest per capita in Canada.

More importantly, Harding said the project will take an estimated 13-million cubic metres per year from Buffalo Pound Lake, the equivalent of about 50 per cent of the water Regina uses annually. “The amount that will be diverted is massive,’’ Harding said. “That’s unacceptable to us.’’

In addition, Yancoal will be injecting about 20,000 cubic metres of brine (salt water) per day into underground formations, which could contaminate the Hatfield aquifer, a major source of groundwater in the region.

Yancoal has also acquired 4,200 acres of land, and options to buy up 60,000 acres of land in the area. “Does it really need this for a potash mine?” the QVEA paper said.

“This project needs to be looked at thoroughly in all regards and that’s what we’re calling for today,’’ Harding said.

But Yancoal spokeswoman Robin Kusch said the QVEA paper contains a number of criticisms that have either been addressed in the EIS or could apply to all potash solution mines, such as the Mosaic Belle Plaine mine or the K+S Legacy project under construction near Bethune.

Kusch noted the 30-day public comment period for the full EIS was mandated by provincial regulations.

“The EIS executive summary was released in July 2015 and it hasn’t changed,’’ Kusch said, adding Yancoal held open houses in March and July 2015.

“There was ample opportunity to ask questions and get information, even though the EIS itself wasn’t out for review.”

As for its carbon footprint, Kusch said that’s an “indirect impact’’ of SaskPower’s GHG emissions from its electrical generating plants and not a direct impact of the project itself.

Water consumption of 1,450 cubic metres per hour is the maximum permitted by the Water Security Agency and SaskWater and is interruptible in the event of a shortage.

“If (QVEA’s) argument is about water capacity, it would be with both (WSA and SaskWater),” she said.

As for deep wastewater disposal, Kusch said other operations, like potash mines and oil and gas companies, also use deep geological formations below the Hatfield aquifer.

Kusch stressed that Yancoal Canada Resources, a subsidiary of publicly traded, Chinese statecontrolled Yanzhou Coal Mining Co., is subject to the same rules as any other company operating in Saskatchewan.

“When you’re a foreign company working in Saskatchewan, you have to meet environmental regulations that are specific to this province. If you don’t, you don’t build the mine. If you build the mine and you fall short, they just shut you down.”

About prosperitysaskatchewan

Consultant on Saskatchewan's natural resources.

Posted on June 7, 2016, in miscellaneous, potash. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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