By Sheldon Hill and Andrew Downing, Saskatchewan Research Council

The potash industry around the world needs ways to optimize their operations given the potential fluctuation of market prices that ultimately impact a producers’ success. Equipment upgrades allow potash mines and mills to reduce maintenance and operational costs. Engineered equipment upgrades can help potash producers increase capacity, improve reliability, increase employee safety, reduce maintenance costs, and develop more efficient operations in underground mines and above ground mills and refineries.

The Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC) has been assisting the potash industry since the 1960s by providing robust mineral processing and metallurgical testing experience and technologies from lab scale to pilot scale for pre-feasibility, feasibility, and engineering studies. SRC has also provided stack sampling services to help industry meet environmental obligations. These services are now complemented with industrial engineering services focused on equipment and circuit upgrading. Engineered equipment upgrades are central to the development of solutions that enable mine operators to lower their operational costs. These services help improve the lifespan and reliability of components, such as screens, bucket elevators, skip hoists, screw feeders, centrifuges, rotary dryers, wet scrubbers, blowers, bag houses, and electrostatic precipitators.

SRC has helped potash processing facilities address a wide range of problematic equipment and assets, including:
• Mechanical drive upgrades to optimize component life (support frames, vibration isolators, bearings, seals, belts, sprockets, sheaves, fasteners, and welds)
• Blower and pump performance
• Vibration management
• Screening optimization
• Design of customized clarifiers, flocculent make-down and dosing systems, sieve bends, mix boxes, tanks, chutes, hoppers, stands, mezzanines, stairs, and walkways
• Assessments and upgrades for cyclones, wet scrubbers, bag houses, and electrostatic precipitators
• Failure analysis services
• Preventative maintenance training
• Practical engineering design courses

Failure analysis techniques involve quantifying the chemical composition of metals and establishing any localized variances within, such as inclusions or migrations (such as chromium loss in a metal). In addition, metallography can be conducted to evaluate the microstructure associated with surface hardening, work hardening, and welding. In SRC’s experience, failure analysis increases the reliability of engineered equipment upgrades because of the shared focus on failure prevention and life extension. SRC’s expertise enables clients to pursue continuous improvement by addressing troublesome assets through engineered refurbishment and remediation. This improves reliability and integrity without the capital costs associated with replacing equipment. SRC uses its extensive experience to tailor services to a clients’ unique needs, including the provision of design, design education, and design-build services. In addition, the provision of operational support for equipment upgrades includes installation instructions, standard operating procedures, and maintenance training.

The services from SRC’s Industrial Engineering group are crucial to engineering equipment upgrades that increase safety and reliability, while SRC’s Advanced Instrumentation and Tools Initiative complements these services by helping the potash industry develop advanced technologies for mining activities. Optimizing equipment and components are critical services that the potash industry needs to reduce maintenance and operational costs associated with potash mines, mills, and refineries. SRC is one of Canada’s leading providers of applied research, development, and demonstration and technology commercialization. To learn more about how SRC supports the mining industry, visit or email

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