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Mining

Responsible mining means managing tailings and reclaiming the land using environmentally sound methods, and interacting with community members to achieve mutual understanding.

We own two phosphate mines and one potash mine. The primary raw material for nitrogen fertilizers is natural gas, which we purchase from local suppliers.

  • The Vanscoy potash mine, which we are currently expanding, is located 32 kilometres southwest of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The mine covers approximately 77 square kilometres, about one kilometre below the surface.
  • Our open-pit phosphate mine and mill operation at Kapuskasing, Ontario supplies high-quality phosphate rock to our Redwater, Alberta facility.
  • Our Conda fertilizer production facility is located north of Soda Springs, Idaho and the open-pit phosphate mine is located 24 kilometres north of the production facility.

Reclamation

Anyone who has ever seen an open-pit mine will tell you that it causes environmental and land disturbances. Reclamation begins at the first stage of mining and is ongoing during mining. Reclamation plans are developed at the outset and are approved by governing agencies. Topsoil is removed and stockpiled for later use. The overburden is removed to expose the phosphate ore beds. The overburden is placed in existing open pits to backfill them as much as possible. Recontouring and re-vegetating the backfill and roads complete the reclamation process. Re-vegetation includes seeding and planting with local species so the area can be used as grazing land for livestock and as a home to a variety of wildlife. Several years of monitoring are needed before reclamation can be considered successful.

Tailings Management

The mining and processing of potash and phosphate rock produces large volumes of tailings that may cause a variety of adverse environmental effects if not managed and disposed of in a safe, stable and environmentally sound manner.

Tailings produced by our Vanscoy potash operations are a mixture of salt particles, fine clay and brine and are a waste product of the potash milling process. The tailings are pumped in a slurry to the tailings management area where the salt and clay solids are allowed to settle, and some brine is reused in the mill. Surplus brine is pumped 1,675 meters below the surface into a formation that contains natural brine. Annual salt production is approximately 3.5 million tonnes per year. A portion of the salt (approximately 350,000 to 400,000 tonnes per year) is marketed for use as a cattle feed supplement, highway and road de-icing and stabilizing agents for road construction. Approximately 650,000 tonnes per year of salt is pumped below surface as brine. We are committed to minimizing the amount of salt tailings stored on surface by employing selective mining techniques to increase the grade of potash ore brought to the surface.

Since 2006, we have been developing and implementing a long-term plan for the tailings management area to ensure it can handle the volumes of material generated over the next 70 years of operation. The plan specifies a reconfiguration of the tailings management area, including a new brine pond, new clay storage, and an expansion of the salt storage area.

Reconfiguration began in 2009 and will continue into 2011. Visit our Agrium Wholesale website for more information.

At our phosphate mines, to expose the ore we extract significant amounts of overburden (e.g., clay), which we either place directly into the adjacent mined-out areas, or stockpile in specially engineered areas. Water from the tailings area is tested and treated prior to release to surface waters.

Clay Slide at Kapuskasing Mine

In May 2009, a section of the clay stockpile area at our Kapuskasing mine failed, resulting in the movement of a large quantity of clay. This event disturbed 0.14 square kilometers of land, and altered the flow of Cargill Creek, resulting in the loss of some fish spawning habitat for nearby Lake Pitama. Our onsite Emergency Operations Centre coordinated response work with industry experts and government officials. A pumping system, sediment screens and continuous monitoring were put in place to contain erosion and ensure an adequate water level in the lake. To compensate for the loss of fish habitat, we will reconstruct and relocate the altered section of Cargill Creek in 2011, effectively restoring the natural flow of water for Lake Pitama.

Environmental Clean-up

Through past acquisitions we have inherited several dormant mines and facilities that were operated years ago. Current laws oblige one or more of our subsidiaries to participate in cleaning up contaminated lands at mines that we now own or lease but did not operate.

Nu-West Industries, Inc. (Nu-West), a wholly owned subsidiary of Agrium Inc., is performing site investigations at some closed phosphate mines and remediation activities at a mineral processing facility near Soda Springs, Idaho. Selenium, a trace mineral that is essential for optimal human health, but becomes toxic at higher concentrations, has been found to be leaching from reclaimed waste rock areas, including at six inherited mine sites. Detailed investigations and analyses are underway at three of the six mine sites, and a proposed clean-up plan has been submitted to state agencies for the former phosphate processing plant. Additional study will be required at the sites to determine the appropriate clean-up plans. In 2010, under the oversight of the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, Nu-West will complete the second of a twoyear clean-up of the above closed mineral processing facility. Since 1996, Nu-West has spent almost $12 million on investigation and clean-up activities at all of these historic sites. We believe that other parties, including the U.S. government, may be wholly or partly responsible for conducting or paying for the remediation and reclamation of some of these historic sites. Consequently, Nu-West has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. in Idaho to advance joint remediation efforts.

Viridian Inc. (Viridian), a wholly owned subsidiary of Agrium Inc., is managing investigative and clean-up actions at two former mineral processing sites near Lynn Lake, Manitoba. At the former Fox Lake Mine site, Viridian is treating acid mine drainage to meet downstream water quality standards. We spend $500,000 to $1 million annually operating the treatment plant at Fox Lake. Viridian also spent $1.5 million on capital in 2008 to substantially modernize that plant. We have made significant additional investment In May 2009, a section of the clay stockpile area at our Kapuskasing mine failed, resulting in the movement of a large quantity of clay. This event disturbed 0.14 square kilometers of land, and altered the flow of Cargill Creek, resulting in the loss of some fish spawning habitat for nearby Lake Pitama. Our onsite Emergency Operations Centre coordinated response work with industry experts and government officials. A pumping system, sediment screens and continuous monitoring were put in place to contain erosion and ensure an adequate water level in the lake. To compensate for the loss of fish habitat, we will reconstruct and relocate the altered section of Cargill Creek in 2011, effectively restoring the natural flow of water for Lake Pitama. Clay Slide at Kapuskasing Mine 23 Agrium 2008-2009 Sustainability Report into researching alternatives for the long-term closure of this site. Viridian is also investigating and cleaning up the East Tailings Management Area (ETMA) under a cooperative agreement with the Manitoba Government. Ongoing investigation and incremental clean-up activities at the ETMA cost between $1 million and $1.2 million per year.

Community Relations

In late 2008, we announced that we plan on expanding our Vanscoy potash facility to keep up with increased demand. Despite the economic downturn during the past two years, major capital projects in Western Canada still face competition for labour, engineering and specific equipment. As the Vanscoy facility is located in a rural area, we are cognizant of how a major expansion could affect the local socio-economic fabric. As is standard practice with changes to any of our facilities, we will consult extensively with nearby stakeholders and strive to procure labour and materials regionally. We intend to use open houses, our website, and even going door-to-door to understand stakeholder needs. The Vanscoy expansion would not be completed until 2014.

Aboriginal Relations

Open communication and mutual understanding are essential ingredients to developing partnerships with community members. This is especially important with Aboriginal communities near our Kapuskasing phosphate operations. Due to the geographic locations of our other facilities, Agrium has limited impact on Aboriginal lands and peoples.

Aboriginal interests and concerns with our Kapuskasing operations are often environmentally related, therefore our environmental specialist is the main point of contact. Our approach to Aboriginal engagement is to develop a working relationship that includes communication, transparency and sharing information of mutual interest. We take an informal approach and plan frequent communications regarding developments and activities that may affect the interests of our neighbouring Aboriginal communities. People that are familiar with our operations are better able to provide input and to participate as the need or opportunities arise.

Lending Land

Agrium agreed to allow the Rural Municipality of Vanscoy to place a lagoon on our property for a recent upgrade of its sewage treatment facilities. We also donated $83,000 to support the upgrades.







In the following sections you will read how we are addressing sustainability issues at every stage of the value chain:

 

 

 

 

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