The Vanguard One project – for which a detailed feasibility study was successfully completed on 31 May this year – will utilise selective solution mining to extract potash from the sylvinite ore body underlying Gensource’s KL 245 subsurface mineral lease and cooling crystallisation techniques in the surface process plant to extract solid phase KCI from the feed brine. For the mining method, while the company will use innovative cavern designs at the ore body, the general method of selective solution mining is well understood and has been actively used in the industry for some time. Nonetheless, in the process plant, the company is employing specific improvements developed by Innovare to improve the plant’s energy efficiencies, which will lead to a lower operating cost.
As determined by the feasibility study, Vanguard One’s stated operating cost per tonne is project to be extremely low, despite the fact that the operation will only produce 250 000 tpy. Usually, potash producers have relied on large tonnages to ensure low operating costs. In addition to this, the mining method will not produce any salt tailings on the surface and the process design – utilising cooling crystallisation – does not require any surface cooling ponds. The result is that there is no brine or salt on the surface, decreasing the environmental impact of potash mining in Saskatchewan.
Until now, the improvements from Innovare were covered under patent pending protection. Gensource has now been notified that Innovare has received confirmation of acceptance of patent for its surface plant techniques. Gensource is a licensor of the Innovare Technologies, whilst Innovare acts as Gensource’s technical advisory board. Gensource claims that the fact that technologies have been accepted by the US Patent Office is an exciting development that speaks to the level of advancement of the technology and its applicability to Gensource’s potash production plans. The company will benefit from using the technologies by deploying state-of-the-art processing at Vanguard One that will help keep operating costs as low as possible – a key attribute for any new project.
Gensource also claims that it is poised and ready to advance the project. The business structure planned for Vanguard One has not changed, as it will be executed under a joint venture in partnership with an offtaker, or buyer, of the product and a financial partner. Gensource claims that it is in talks with a number of parties – all of whom are credible and active participants in the potash industry – to create these partnerships. The company says that it is now excited at the prospect of moving the project forwards.