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Vanguard One project achieves environmental assessment milestone

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World Fertilizer,

Gensource Potash Corp. has announced that it has received the Ministerial determination of ‘not a development’ from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment (MOE) for the Vanguard One project.

As a result of the determination, Gensource is not required to complete a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), since it has been recognised that the project has a number of positive environmental attributes that will not trigger the stringent criteria of the Saskatchewan Environmental Assessment Act. As a consequence, Gensource claims that the project is unlikely to significantly impact the environment. This notification officially confirms that the project can now proceed to the next stage of the environmental regulatory process: detailed construction licensing.

The President and CEO of Gensource, Mike Ferguson, said: “A ministerial determination of ‘not a development’ is a fantastic outcome for Gensource and our Vanguard One project and is exactly what the team was working towards. It is a decision that we anticipated due to the fact that our approach to potash mining is radically different from traditional potash projects – Vanguard One will be much more environmentally friendly with no salt tailings and no brine ponds of any sort. This determination not only confirms one of our core values as a company – to provide a cleaner source of potash production – but it is also a crucial element to our project success, as it enables a much faster, more efficient and cost-effective overall project development timeline.”

According to the MOE, “An Environmental Assessment (EA) is a results-based process used by the Government of Saskatchewan to understand and evaluate the potential environmental impacts of a project before any irreversible decisions are taken that may lead to negative effects on the environment, natural resources or public health and safety.”

As per the Environmental Assessment Act, proponents are to evaluate and self-assess as to whether or not their proposed project is likely to meet any of the specific criteria within the act that would trigger a full environmental impact assessment, and whether a review under the Act is warranted.

Based on the technology, size, and environmental implications of the project, the Gensource team argued that the project should not be classified as a ‘development’ under the act. On that basis, the company engaged Golder Associates Ltd to prepare a technical proposal for the project, which was submitted in June last year to the Environmental Assessment & Stewardship (EAS) Branch of the MOE for review and determination. As part of the technical proposal, Gensource claims that the project’s potential impact on the local environment was assessed. Additional work was carried out to address further information requests from the EAS Branch over the course of the review period. Subsequently, on 8 August 2018, Gensource claims that it received official communication from the Government of Saskatchewan confirming that the project was not classified as a ‘development’, since it is unlikely to cause significant adverse residual effects on the environment.

In the statement, Gensource claims that the Vanguard One project is not a conventional potash solution mine. The plant site footprint covers approximately 300 m by 300 m (9 ha. or approximately 22 acres) and, compared to a conventional potash solution mine, it has a reduced impact on the environment through its lack of salt tailings, lack of brine-containing surface ponds, reduced impact to utilities and local infrastructure and reduced water consumption per tonne of product produced. These features are all enabled by the company’s selective solution mining and enhanced potash recovery and process techniques. In summary, the Gensource potash module includes the following environmental advantages:

  • No salt tailings or brine structures (i.e. ponds) on the surface.
  • Only groundwater will be used for mining and process water.
  • Reduced consumption of water per tonne of product produced.
  • Self-generating power (natural gas boiler/steam turbine generator – cleaner than purchasing grid power, which is majority coal-fired, resulting in a net greenhouse gas reduction).
  • Site layout can accommodate doubling of production capacity, without a footprint increase.
  • Smaller consumption of utilities, and lower impact on community infrastructure.

The project is designed to produce 250 000 tpy of potassium chloride (KCl, or potash). For reference, Gensource claims that this is approximately one-tenth of the annual production of a typical potash mine in Saskatchewan.

Gensource has previously communicated that there remained two significant milestones to allow the project to proceed to construction: environmental assessment; and project finance.

In May this year, the company announced that it had signed a definitive, binding offtake agreement with a strategic North American diversified agricultural company for the sale of 100% of Vanguard One’s production for a 10-year period.

With this latest statement, the company announces the accomplishment of the environmental assessment milestone: approval from MOE, allowing the project to move forward to construction licensing.

The last remaining item is project finance. Since the completion of the definitive offtake agreement, Gensource, in conjunction with its investment banking team, claims that it has made positive and steady progress in assembling the necessary project financing package to launch the project forward into detailed engineering/procurement and construction.

Ferguson added: “The determination from MOE for the Vanguard One potash project is truly remarkable and is not only a significant milestone for Gensource and our first project, but also a milestone for the advancement of the potash mining industry. It is the first potash project in Saskatchewan’s history to be deemed ‘not a development’ under existing environmental assessment legislation. With the Vanguard One project, we believe that Gensource has set the direction for the future responsible stewardship of one of Saskatchewan’s most economically important natural resources, initiating the use of efficient and environmentally responsible potash production.

“We appreciate the work of our team, together with the professionalism exhibited by the personnel of the EAS Branch of the MOE, to allow us to achieve this milestone. We are excited to move Vanguard One forward.”

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