Building the first conventional greenfield potash mine in Saskatchewan for some decades presents a rare opportunity for innovation that BHP Billiton is grasping with both hands as it builds what the company believes will be the safest and most technologically advanced potash mine in the province.
As the company continues to build the Jansen Potash Project about 140 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon, the drive to innovate runs in-tandem with the drive to ensure this is a safe project building a safe mine. This is in-line with the company’s charter values, which ensure a relentless commitment to sustainability; that means putting health and safety first, being environmentally responsible and supporting local communities.
“Every day at Jansen our teams work to find and design safer and better ways of developing a potash mine. That includes finding safer ways to do everything we do,” says Giles Hellyer, BHP Billiton’s VP of operations for potash.
“We are excavating the shafts mechanically (not using drill and blast) using two Herrenknecht boring machines or shaft boring roadheaders (we call them the SBRs). As we go, a preliminary concrete liner is constructed to protect the shafts’ integrity during the sinking process. This liner will be augmented with a permanent composite steel liner from the bottom up once the excavation reaches the planned depth.”
Using the Herrenknecht SBRs enables BHP Billiton to remove all people from the bench during shaft excavation and this minimizes safety risks. The company has also installed a pneumatic conveying system to lift all excavated materials to sinking buckets that are hoisted to the surface where the materials are disposed of.
“This technology has been customized for Jansen to improve the safety of employees working in the shafts. The Herrenknecht machines have also been adapted for the installation of the tubbing in the area of the Blairmore, where we used a mechanical arm attached to the SBR to install the steel rings. This eliminated the need for people to manually manoeuvre these two-tonne parts into place,” Hellyer explains.
Innovation and technology are giving BHP Billiton an advantage throughout their mine’s development and value chain in production. A Prevention through Design (PtD) program seeks to eliminate or mitigate hazards during design. The goal is to design facilities that are safe to build, operate, and maintain to prevent unnecessary occupations exposures to people or harm to the community or environment. Many of the innovations at Jansen have been arrived at through the PtD program. Some have been gained through taking advantage of being part of a leading global resources company.
Leveraging petroleum technology has given a comprehensive understanding of the orebody at Jansen. Underground, the Sandvik MF460 borers will incorporate the latest technology available for automation, production rates, and safety enhancement, supported by a continuous ore conveyance system. In the processing facility, improved on-stream analysis will ensure close monitoring of process upsets and the processed potash will be carried to market on a state-of-the-art logistics system. Technological advances also mean that Jansen’s overall energy consumption will be lower than that of other underground potash mines.
“We have taken our time to develop Jansen, making sure we get the details right,” says Hellyer. “By sinking the shafts now and by going through an extraordinarily rigorous process of studies and preparation, we are ensuring that when the market is ready for new supply, Jansen will be poised to meet that demand.”by