After impressing PotashCorp on the Picadilly Mine Project in New Brunswick, Aecon Mining Construction Services was awarded its largest, single mining contract to date and promptly followed its client west to Saskatchewan. In 2014, the Aecon teams wrapped up work on a world-class processing facility that will help the potash giant meet its global demand.

Anyone familiar with Rocanville, Saskatchewan will instantly recognize the signature red and white vertical stripes that adorn PotashCorp’s mine site buildings east of town. For 40 years, PotashCorp has been extracting and processing potash, phosphate, and nitrogen for a global market that heavily relies on these fertilizer products to keep farmland soil healthy and productive. Today, the company has put the town of Rocanville on the map. PotashCorp is the largest producer by capacity of potash, and third largest producer of nitrogen and phosphate in the world.

Supplying so much of the world’s potash production from its Canadian operations has translated into substantial growth for the company’s mining facilities in Rocanville, located some 230 kilometres east of the provincial capital.

“Without a doubt, being awarded and entrusted with this size of a contract by PotashCorp had a lot to do with our strong operational and safety performance on the Picadilly project,” notes Phil Ward, executive vice-president, Aecon Mining. “We developed a great working relationship with the client and AMEC, the engineering firm, on that job, and we’re thrilled to be working with them again.”

13-2A job like no other

In April 2012, Aecon first mobilized on-site and began working on the new mill installation. The Rocanville potash mill differs in a major way from other milling operations: Rather than being spread out like a traditional horizontal mill, it’s constructed vertically, standing just over 60 metres tall and featuring eight operational floors.

“For sure the vertical nature of this mill presented us with huge logistical challenges,” says John Salter, vice-president, Aecon Mining and Construction Services, stressing the importance of careful planning and coordination on such a large-scale job. “With all the different levels on this job, we found the biggest challenge was just trying to execute the work around a congestion of workers on the same level at the same time. Scheduling, delivering and maneuvering the equipment, materials and supplies was a feat in itself, not to mention the logistics and processes needed for safe work execution.”

Labour was another challenge, as is often the case when undertaking major projects in smaller communities and remote regions. With 750 workers required for this job, the Rocanville project was no exception, especially with Aecon self-performing the majority of the work. Some 75 key, experienced managers and supervisors were brought on site to oversee the project and were challenged to ramp up quickly with a team of skilled tradespeople.

“As you can imagine, a project of this size quickly depletes all resources from the local union halls in southern Saskatchewan,” says Roger Archambault, senior project manager. “As a matter of fact, only 25 per cent of the required labour came from local halls. The remaining balance came from journeymen, who travelled from all across the country.”

Ensuring the work was safely executed was high on the priority list. When asked how difficult it was to implement Aecon’s Safety First culture on site, Jason Price, site safety manager, admits it was a challenge in the beginning.

“Bringing over 700 workers from all across the country translates into a lot of diversity when it comes to safety culture. We had all sorts of trades on site at the same time. Everyone had to be trained and educated on Aecon’s safety practices, cooperating with PotashCorp’s safety team, to ensure we were all on the same page.”

K+S potash work

Having already completed several high-profile piling jobs since its formation, Aecon Mining was ready to roll last summer when news broke that the group had been awarded a major contract for client K+S Potash Canada’s Legacy Mine, the first new greenfield potash mine to be built in Saskatchewan in nearly 40 years. Aecon Mining was on tap for the installation of more than 2,000 piles to support the numerous buildings required to process the potash brought in from the mine. The evaporation process plant alone, as the site’s single largest location, required 594 piles.

All told, some 2,400 bell piles were drilled, cleaned, and poured for the future location of Legacy Mine. By industry standards, a piling project of this magnitude is “quite the undertaking” says Lars Richter, Aecon Mining Services group general manager. “The amount of work we’ve performed on this contract shows the level of demand for the type of work we do.”

Aecon Mining Construction Services has since been awarded several key process installations for the K+S Early Cavern Development and Well Pads portions of the Legacy Project. These combined contracts Aecon Mining holds with K+S Potash Canada are quite significant.

Aecon Mining proudly delivers all of their client’s needs, from the inception of a project to end-of-project reclamation, and everything in between. The mining industry has become a major industry in Canada, which still has a lot of growth ahead, and Aecon Mining is positioned to play a major role in the development and maintenance of current and future mines.

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