A 25 year old man from Newfoundland has died at the Agrium owned Vanscoy Potash Mine, approximately 32 kilometers southwest of Saskatoon, apparently after falling 18 m from scaffolding, at around 3.30 am local time (around 9.30 am GMT) on Saturday 13 July 2013. The man was apparently an independent contractor working for PCL Construction, hired as part of an expansion project at the mine; the Vanscoy Potash Mine is currently undergoing an expansion intended to raise production by 750 000 tonnes per year (40%) by 2015. The cause of the incident is not immediately clear, and the incident is being investigated by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and officials from the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety.
The Vanscoy Potash Mine in Saskatchewan. Saskatoon CTV News.
There are large reserves of potash (potassium salt), an important mineral in the production of commercial fertilizers, buried beneath the plains of southern Saskatchewan, though accessing these has proved difficult for mining contractors. The potash-bearing deposits are at their shallowest along a line that runs southeast from Saskatoon to Regina, where they are buried at a depth of approximately 1000 m. The deposits get deeper to the southwest of this line, reaching 1600 m at Belle Plaine (between Regina and Moose Jaw) and as deep as 3000 m bellow Montana and North Dakota. This depth in itself is not an insurmountable problem, but the deposits are also beneath the Blairmore Aquifer, at a depth of 400-600 m in the Saskatoon/Regina area, which needs to be sealed of by mining engineers sinking shafts to the potash deposits in order prevent flooding (water bearing strata can overlie dry strata as long as there is a water-impermeable layer, typically clay, in between).
Simplified geology of the Saskatchewan potash deposits (labeled as 'Salt). Uralkali.
The approximate location of the Vanscoy mine. Google Maps.
See also Six killed by Yunnan landslide, Thirty seven dead after collapse at gold mine in the Central African Republic, Amnesty International reports on the mining industry in Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iowa sinkhole linked to nineteenth century mines and Two union officials shot at Lonmin Platinum Mine in Marikana, South Africa.
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