BY RICHARD GILBERT - The construction of the first potash mine in Saskatchewan on First Nations land has taken an important step forward, after the Muskowekwan First Nation (MFN) voted in favour of the project.
“The majority supported the council’s vision to build a self-sufficient treaty-based economy for our future and future generations,” said Muskowekwan Chief Reginald Bellerose.
“The proposed development of a potash mine on First Nation lands is precedent setting, as no other First Nation in Canada has ever undertaken such an endeavour.
“The council believes the development of a proposed potash mine represents a game changer for the members.”
The eligible voters of the MFN have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a proposal to construct a solution-based potash mine on the First Nation land about 100 kilometres northeast of Regina.
The number of eligible electors who were entitled to vote on the referendum was 1,209.
The percentage of those in favour on the six ballots ranged from 79 per cent to 77 per cent.
The voting was conducted on April 15, 2014 at the MFN and in the days preceding by voting in advance at scheduled information sessions and via a mail-in ballot.
“Many members have told me they can’t wait for construction to begin so that they can participate in the project,” said Chief Bellerose.
“The benefits from the mine will include equity, employment and business opportunities, and members will see economic benefits from income, wages and opportunities.”
Muskowekwan Resources Limited, which is wholly owned by the First Nation, has entered into a joint venture agreement with Encanto Potash Corp to develop a solution mine.
It will produce about 2.8 million tonnes of potash per year for at least 50 years.
The joint venture partnership is unique because the MFN is a co-proponent and will benefit in a variety of ways, including increased employment, contracting, training, and business opportunities.
Construction of the project involves clearing, grubbing, excavation and grading of the land, as well as the erection of buildings, preparation of roadbeds, development of well production pads and associated infrastructure.
This includes service roads, pipelines and power lines, preliminary cavern development, the drilling and development of temporary groundwater supply wells, erection of electrical distribution and co-generation plant.
During construction, temporary infrastructure, including a labour camp for up to 1,000 construction employees, will be assembled on-site.
The total construction personnel required at peak levels will be about 1,000.
As the owner of the mineral rights, MFN will earn royalty revenue annually for the minimum 50-year operational life of the project.
At current potash prices, this royalty revenue would be about $80 million per year.