Prosperity Saskatchewan

BHP Jansen – timeline clarification

BHP says Jansen will be ‘the first mine in Canada that’s truly attractive to women’

ALEX MACPHERSON, SASKATOON STARPHOENIX

Published on: November 9, 2017 | Last Updated: November 9, 2017 6:00 AM CST

BHP vice president of potash operations Giles Hellyer speaks in Saskatoon on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. MICHELLE BERG /SASKATOON STARPHOENIX

Amid efforts to achieve a gender-balanced workforce, BHP says its massive Jansen potash mine under construction east of Saskatoon will be the first in Canada that is “truly attractive to women.”

Technology used to make the mine more efficient and cost-effective is also expected to better serve a future workforce that is 50 per cent female, said Giles Hellyer, BHP’s vice-president of potash operations.

“The traditional way we think and view mines does not have to be that way,” the 33-year BHP veteran said after addressing a North Saskatoon Business Association (NSBA) lunch event.

“The nature of the work will change, and I think it will become much, much more interesting to all people of all demographics,” Hellyer said, alluding to the low number of women working in the province’s mining industry.

That means the facility — which is expected to have a final price tag of US$14 billion — will have everything from an equal number of men’s and women’s washrooms to automated mining machines that can be controlled remotely, he said.

BHP has so far committed around US$3.8 billion to Jansen, of which US$2.6 billion is being spent to sink two kilometre-deep mine shafts and build surface infrastructure — work that is now 73 per cent complete.

Located 100 kilometres from Saskatoon, the Jansen project has been plagued with uncertainty. BHP said in August that its board won’t give the project final approval this year, and that the company could wait until markets improve, bring on a partner, or simply sell it.

In his speech to the NSBA, Hellyer emphasized that it is “not uncommon for (BHP) to take a long time to develop large projects like this one.” He said afterward that the company is committed to making the best case possible for Jansen.

Asked when it could go to the board for approval, Hellyer said: “When the timing is right — and that will be a function of when we believe the market dynamics are right and also when … we have spent the time and effort to get the project itself right for their consideration.”

BHP made its commitment to achieve gender balance by 2025 last year. Hellyer said Wednesday that women now make up 33 per cent of its Canadian workforce. By comparison, the Saskatchewan mining industry average is a little over 14 per cent.

While improving that figure won’t be without its challenges, Hellyer said making the company more inclusive is “morally and ethically the right thing to do, and it also has huge business value.”