British Columbia Mine Reclamation Symposium

Decommissioning planning for Saskatchewan's potash mines Reid, K. W.; Getzlaf, Mark N.


Saskatchewan's potash producing companies are now in the process of developing decommissioning and reclamation (D&R) plans for potash mines which were in operation many years before these plans were required by provincial regulations. The major problem is to develop a plan for the extensive piles of potash tails now stored on the surface in tails management areas. There are many features of potash mining which are unique to the mining industry. These include mining operations, refining processes, waste characteristics, waste management techniques, mine life, land tenure, public concern, pre-mining environment, and environmental risks. The D&R techniques commonly employed for tails have been considered for use on potash tails piles and have been found to be unsuitable. Potash operations in other jurisdictions have not decommissioned tails piles to a standard which would be acceptable in Saskatchewan. Since there are no precedents to use as a guide, the Saskatchewan industry and regulatory agency have cooperated in developing a novel approach to D&R planning. Because of the features unique to the industry and because of the fundamental differences between the regulatory agency and the industry about the magnitude of the risk inherent to potash tails, early in the process, it was agreed to assess the acceptability of various D&R proposals through a decision process which employed cost benefit analysis. Another area of disagreement between the parties was resolved by developing and using contaminant transport models to predict the subsurface movement of brine from the waste management areas through a multilayered environment, a unique problem requiring a unique approach. The D&R planning process being employed for potash mines in Saskatchewan has been formalized through the development of a flow diagram which is being followed to arrive at a solution acceptable to all parties.

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