Monday, May 30, 2016

Yancoal: more evidence that environmental assessment is not protecting the land

Hey--it is Saskatchewan Mining Week--a time when we can all celebrate the way we let foreign companies dig stuff out of the ground and haul it away leaving a big mess behind.

According to the Fraser Institute’s 2015 Survey of Mining Companies, an annual international survey of exploration, development and mining-related companies, Saskatchewan is the number one jurisdiction for mining investment attractiveness in Canada and the second most attractive jurisdiction in the world. Why? Gee--could it be that we have a government that promises corporations that they will expedite the environmental assessment and approval process?
The Province is right now going through an environmental review of a proposed potash mine for the Southey area north of Regina. Local people are concerned (Western Producer story here) that the design by Chinese coal mining giant Yancoal will harm the loon creek water system and the Qu'Appelle lakes. They say that the water the mine will use from the Qu'Appelle system might well affect Regina, Moose Jaw and all communities drawing water from the Hatfield Valley Aquifer. Yancoal, however, has some experience working with the law to deal with any resistance from local farm people. (UPDATE--there will be a press conference at Regina's Copper Kettle Restaurant on June 6th, featuring leaders of the opposition parties. Details here. Read also this excellent post about Yancoal by Jim Harding.)

click on image to get larger Google satellite image showing Southey area
and Loon Creek (just left of centre meandering south toward the Qu'Appelle.)

We need to get this right, because once this first Yancoal project is through the chute, there will be more to come. Yancoal says it currently holds 19 potash permits in Saskatchewan, covering approximately 5,364 square kilometres. Saskatchewan could start to look like parts of China where land and water is subjugated to mining and industrial interests.

The following is a guest post by members of the Havelock Special Projects Committee, who live in the area and wants to encourage people from the area and throughout the Qu'Appelle watershed to submit their comments on or before the deadline of June 6th (only seven days remaining!).

Public comments should be sent, either by mail, fax or e-mail to Comments must be formalized through written submission and should include your first name, last name and preferred method of contact. 

If you are not emailing then mail or fax to:

Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment Environmental Assessment Branch 
4th Floor, 3211 Albert Street 
Regina, SK 
S4S 5W6 
Tel: 306-787-6132 Fax: 306-787-0930

Here is how the Ministry of the Economy sees Saskatchewan

Here is the post from the Havelock Special Projects Committee:


The Ministry of Environment is currently accepting public comment on the Yancoal Southey Project Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). All public comments are due on June 6, 2016. This project raises a lot of questions and everyone with an interest is encourage to submit a letter to the Ministry.
Yancoal Southey Project

The Yancoal Southey Project is a green field mine that will produce potash through solution mining. The Project is located within the subsurface mineral permits KP377 and CP392, west of Highway 6 and north of grid road 731. The project will be designed to produce 2.8 million tonnes of potash per year. The life expectancy of the project is 65 – 100 years (

Yancoal has put forth an aggressive schedule for the project:

2016 – EIS Review, Financial Decision, Environmental Permitting

2017 (Q2) to 2019 – Construction

2020 – Commissioning (

Water Supply

The Water Security Agency (WSA) has indicated that Buffalo Pound Lake is the source Yancoal will draw water from if the project is approved. There is significant public concern about the ability for Buffalo Pound to sustain water demand from existing industries and previously approved potash projects, in addition to the Yancoal project. The WSA does not use climate change forecasts in their modelling. WSA bases the allocation modeling on historical long term averages and annual variability (highs and lows). The risk is high if WSA’s analysis is incorrect and the lake cannot sustain the amount of water it allocates for new mining projects.

Yancoal and the WSA have stated that in case of water shortage residential water needs will take first priority over that of industry. However, the WSA will enter into a contract to supply Yancoal with water, if WSA cannot supply the water then there is potential that the WSA would have to pay Yancoal a penalty fee. Perhaps this penalty clause would be a similar to that SaskPower is paying to Cenovus because they are not producing the volume of carbon they originally agreed to (
Potential Water Contamination

Yancoal is proposing to drill right through the Hatfield Aquifer. This aquifer is a major source of water for surrounding communities and farmyards. There is no existing solution potash mines over top major aquifers in Saskatchewan. Yancoal assures there will be no contamination to the aquifer and they will monitor closely to see if there are impacts. If the monitoring does detects problems, it will be too late and the water will be compromised. What will surrounding residents and towns do when their water source is compromised? Will Yancoal pay for it? Is there a dollar value that can be put on access to drinking water? Do we trust a huge company to self monitor something as important as our water?

The current natural drainage from the proposed mine area drains into Loon Creek and then enters the Qu’Appelle water system south of Southey and feeds into the Calling Lakes near Fort Qu’Appelle. Once the mine is operational the drainage will contain high levels of salinity which could negatively impact the existing eco-system in the Calling Lakes.


The host community north of Southey, Sask is a thriving agricultural community. There are a number of young farmers all trying to grow their farms and establish roots in the community. The heritage of family farming is prevailing in this community – other parts of our province are not so fortunate. There are 18 homes and 52 people living in a 2 mile radius of the core facility and 126 homes and 325 people living in a 5 mile radius of the Yancoal project. This is a heavily populated rural area and it appears as though Yancoal did not take that into account when selecting this location. If these people are left to live so close to the mine their health and lifestyles will be negatively impacted. Up-rooting these families will disrupt an otherwise prosperous and content community. The proposed Yancoal mine is not sustainable based on the negative impact it will have on the population surrounding the mine.


Allowing Yancoal to proceed with this project, based on the way they have developed this project to date is setting the bar far too low. If Yancoal is allowed to get away developing a major project using the business practices they have then the Province will be opening the flood gates for further unfavorable developers. Yancoal was not aware of how to properly do business in Saskatchewan when they started this project. They have divided the community, they have exposed residents living nearby to undue stress and uncertainty about the future, and they have added a huge burden financial burden to the RM which they have not agreed to reimburse. The Ministry of Environment needs to be made aware of the concern this project conjures up with the public. The best way to do that is to make your concerns known and your voice heard by submitting a letter to the Ministry by June 6. If you would like more information on the impacts this project has already had in the community and the environmental concerns that still need to be addressed, please follow Havelock Special Projects Committee on Twitter or Facebook.

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