NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Award for U of S researcher
CBC News — Earlier this year researchers at the University of Saskatchewan showed the world, for the first time, the inside of a horse's stomach.
Now, Khan Wahid, associate professor in the College of Engineering at the U of S, is the proud recipient of the 2016 Innovation Place Industry Liaison Office (ILO) Award of Innovation and $5,000.
According to a release from the university, Wahid's research showcased the significant innovations in video and image processing through wireless endoscopy capsules known as camera pills. They're roughly the size of a large multivitamin. In March, Wahid and his team were able to capture images from the inside of a research horse named Mama. "Doctors are not satisfied with the current image quality from endoscopy capsules," Wahid said in the release. "We are working to improve the technology in several ways, which will lead to more consistent, accurate diagnosis." The university said Wahid is now testing his patented technology in animals with collaborators from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, both as a test bed for human use, and to potentially fill a need for veterinarians. There is no such tool on the market for their needs, according to the university.
The end goal is to have this technology used on humans to help diagnose gastrointestinal disorders or diseases. The tiny camera has been improved to allow images and video to be captured inside a body and sent to the researcher's smart phone in real time.
Students pick up $50,000 challenge prize
Regina Leader-Post — The world of farming has changed immensely over the past century, and while tractors have become much more advanced, a farmer still needs to sit behind the wheel – for now. That could change soon, thanks to the robotic tractor created by Sam Dietrich, Joshua Friedrick and Caleb Friedrick, a team of University of Regina students.
Their robotic tractor was the culmination of months of work, which paid off when the team earned the top prize at the 2016 agBOT Challenge in Indiana.
“It is a competition to encourage innovation in agriculture and robotics. The hosts felt there was a void of robotic applications in the agriculture realm,” said Joshua Friedrick. Tasked with planting a dozen half-mile rows of corn, the team competed against 11 other teams from around North America. “There was so much to do and there were a lot of things that could go wrong,” Friedrick said. “It turned out in our favour that the bad things that happened to other teams, happened to us early on and that allowed us to work on the problems beforehand.”
The students, who have graduated from the U of R’s industrial systems engineering program, plan to enter again next year. The team’s supervising professor, Mehran Mehrandezh, P.Eng., was proud of their work. “I was very excited about this. We stood first and it was really exciting for us,” said Mehrandezh, who introduced the students to the project. “I picked them because they came to me about the possibility of using UAVs. That was the start point, which goes back to August of 2015.” Saskatchewan was well-represented at the competition. Nathan Muchowski, a former U of R student, earned third place for his robot.
Students graduate from U of S as mining engineer
Global News — Three years after introducing a mining engineering program at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), five of its students graduated last spring. They studied in the university’s mining and mineral processing options program.
“It signals a return to mining engineering in Saskatchewan,” said Al Shpyth, executive director of the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII).
The U of S and IMII partnered to bring the program to life. The option, which is an add-on to degrees in chemical, geological and mechanical engineering, is the first offering of its kind at the U of S since 1976, Shpyth said. Despite lagging prices and sales for potash and the recent closure of the Rabbit Lake Cameco uranium operation, Shpyth said there are plenty of opportunities for graduates in the province. “The industry here is still really strong. We’ve got 10 major operating mines that always have a need for new skills and new talents,” he said.
Gensource planning small potash mine for south central Saskatchewan
Global News - The CEO of Saskatoon-based Gensource Potash Corp. says their mine will be unique in method and production levels.
Gensource is planning to develop a second small mine in Saskatchewan using a business model it believes is the "future of the industry."
Gensource Potash Corporation reached the agreement with Yancoal Canada Resources this past April. If seen through, the leases would be developed into a mine north-west of Regina, near Eyebrow.
“As part of that arrangement [Yancoal] will agree to purchase . . . the product from us from one of our small production facilities that we plan for this area,” said Gensource president and CEO Mike Ferguson in an interview
. Gensource’s business model revolves around pre-selling its product before it starts to develop a project. Gensource’s Vanguard Project will produce 250 000 tonnes of potash a year and employ 46 long-term staff, according to Ferguson. The site would be roughly an hour drive from Craik, where the company is developing a separate small mine. It would likely take more than two years until the site is constructed and producing potash.
Saskatchewan top province for mining investment
Canadian Manufacturing - Saskatchewan and Quebec sit atop the rankings as the two best Canadian jurisdictions for mining investment this year, according to the Fraser Institute’s 2015 Survey of Mining Companies.
Assessing regions worldwide for their fitness for mining investment, the think tank’s survey asks mining executives to rate 109 different jurisdictions on their geological and policy attractiveness.
Along with taking the top position in Canada, Saskatchewan ranked as the second most mine-friendly jurisdiction in the world, trailing only Western Australia for its mix of mineral and metal wealth and its policy friendliness.
“While Saskatchewan is blessed with potash and uranium reserves, miners also appreciate its approach to mining policy. Compared to other jurisdictions, the province is perceived to have a competitive tax regime, efficient permitting procedures and clarity around land claims,” Kenneth Green, senior director of energy and natural resources at the Fraser Institute, said.
PotashCorp Rocanville will be one of the world's biggest underground mines
Regina Leader-Post - The finishing touches are being put on PotashCorp Rocanville’s $3-billion expansion project, which will double its production capacity, making it one of the biggest underground mines — potash or otherwise — in the world, according to PotashCorp Rocanville’s general manager.
“Our planned production is about 5 million tonnes per year,” Larry Long told a Saskatchewan Mining Week breakfast. “Obviously this will be dictated by potash markets, but it will be quite a change for us at Rocanville (located about 200 km east of Regina near the Manitoba border). We typically did 2.5 million to 2.7 million tonnes per year, so this is a giant step up.”
Long, a mining industry veteran from New Brunswick, said the eight-year expansion project presented many challenges and obstacles to overcome, including a “monster feature” — an unexpectedly large salt formation — which separated the new and existing potash ore bodies.
“We mined straight salt for over a year,” Long said, adding that 3-D seismic technology “doesn’t tell you what is salt and what is potash. There had to be a leap of faith that we were going to intersect that ore body on the other side.”
Fortunately, the PotashCorp team was able to reach the ore body “and it worked out,” he told the mining week session hosted by the Saskatchewan Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Saskatchewan. Starting in 2008, the expansion project employed thousands of construction workers and contractors, both underground and above ground, working on the installation of mining equipment and buildings. “We had up to 1,800 contractors on the site; that was our peak head count. But there was a long period where there were 1,500 (contractors), plus our own employees.” When completed, full-time employment will increase to 750, double the present workforce. PotashCorp Rocanville will operate using two mills, the original mill at 1100 tonnes per hour and the new mill at 1300 tonnes per hour, when fully commissioned.
Province's first new potash mine in 40 years
Regina Leader-Post - If building a potash mine was like a horse race, K+S’s Legacy Project would be entering the home stretch.
The $4.1-billion solution potash mine remains on time and on budget to begin production at the end of this year and full commercial production of 2 million tonnes per year by late 2017.
“We will produce the first tonnes of potash at the end of this year,” K+S Canada Potash president and CEO Ulrich Lamp told reporters. “Then we will produce 1 million tonnes in 2017 and achieve our capacity of two million tonnes per year by the end of next year."
For Lamp, the project is the culmination of a long journey that began on a prairie field and a tent in 2012 when K+S first broke ground at the Legacy mine site, about 70 km northwest of Regina.
The Legacy mine is K+S’s largest capital investment to date and the first “greenfield’’ potash mine to be built in Saskatchewan in more than 40 years.
The project is now in the pre-commissioning phase, with about 90 per cent of capital spent.
SaskPower carbon capture facility operating more reliably
POWER Magazine - Though it experienced a number of problems in its first year of operation, the SaskPower Boundary Dam Unit 3 carbon capture facility is now operating with a reliability rate of over 92 per cent, according to sources at the Crown utility.
After initial excitement about successfully operating the world’s first full-scale carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) process at an operating power plant, SaskPower discovered a number of problems with the facility that resulted in numerous repairs and operational changes.
In a blog post dated May 9, Saskatchewan’s provincial electric utility reported that the 161-MW (gross) Unit 3 was online 100 per cent in April and that 82 033 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) had been captured that month.
“This brings the total of CO2 captured in 2016 to just under 300 000 tonnes, or 75 per cent of what was captured in 2015. We remain on track to meet our target of 800 000 tonnes captured in 2016,” the company said.
To date in 2016, SaskPower says Unit 3 “is operating above the 85 per cent reliability target set for all power units at Boundary Dam Power Station. Of the first 121 days of 2016 the CCS system has been up for 112 days, achieving a reliability rate of more than 92 per cent.”
SaskPower says the facility is operating “at a level that exceeds federal emission regulations and meets SaskPower’s CO2 sales commitment.”
Saskatoon to boost reliance on small-scale clean power projects
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - As SaskPower works to double its use of renewable power sources, the City of Saskatoon plans to expand its use of small-scale sources of clean electricity, which cut emissions and could make the city more self-reliant.
“We’ve set a target of producing, or generating, 10 per cent of our annual energy requirements from local, renewable resources,” said Kevin Hudson, P.Eng., Saskatoon Light and Power’s manager of metering and sustainable electricity. Saskatoon is relatively new to small-scale or distributed generation projects. After almost nine decades without any electricity generation capacity whatsoever, the city opened its $15 million landfill gas collection and power generation system in 2014.
The plant produces electricity by burning methane and other gases extracted from deep beneath the landfill. It can power up to 1,300 of the roughly 59,000 homes in Saskatoon while cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 45 000 tonnes per year, according to Saskatoon Light and Power.
Hudson said SaskPower’s pledge to increase its use of renewable resources to 50 per cent from 25 per cent is an ambitious but achievable goal. Because Saskatoon buys almost all of its power from the utility, residents will benefit from cleaner electricity. At the same time, more small-scale power projects will further cut emissions, he added. “If you can develop local, renewable energy projects right in the community, or near the community, that benefits (everyone),” he said, noting that clean power generated in Saskatoon could be used directly or sold back to SaskPower, bringing the Crown corporation closer to its target.
Saskatoon is currently contemplating more small-scale projects, Hudson said. In addition to the landfill plant, which produces about 1 per cent of the city’s electrical needs, there are plans to partner with the Saskatchewan Environmental Society to build a solar photovoltaic demonstration project, and a proposal to build a hydro power plant at the weir, a project that could power 4,800 homes — roughly 4 per cent of the city.
In 2009, the city commissioned pre-feasibility engineering and environmental baseline studies of several possible design concepts. The studies found that three possible designs were technically feasible and economically viable. Hudson said while the project is in its infancy, it would likely cost about $60 million and leave space for a whitewater park. Saskatoon currently uses slightly more than 10 per cent of all electricity consumed in Saskatchewan, of which small-scale power projects like those proposed for the city produce a negligible amount. However, growing demand and SaskPower’s push toward renewables mean that could change.
No quick solution to Quill Lakes flooding
Regina Leader-Post - People living near the Quill Lakes are fed up. The lakes, 150 kilometres north of Regina, have flooded 29,000 acres of farmland and 56,000 acres of pasture land. Earlier this spring, the road travelling between the lakes was closed — again — due to water levels, creating a lengthy detour.
And no one, residents say, is helping them.
“I don’t think (the government is) working very hard at it, myself. I’m getting more upset every year about it,” said farmer Darrel Allen, who has watched more than 500 of his acres wash away. The lakes have risen 6.5 metres in 10 years. If they rise another metre, their saline contents will spill south to the freshwater Last Mountain Lake.
Last year, the Water Security Agency (WSA) proposed to divert inflow from Kutawagan Creek to Last Mountain Lake, but stakeholders rejected the idea. So the government went back to the drawing board. “It’s still an incredibly difficult situation,” said WSA spokesman Patrick Boyle.
The agency is exploring a handful of other options, such as increasing water storage in the basin, deep-well injection and making the Quill Lakes a priority for the province’s new drainage regulations. Boyle said any solution requires extensive technical and engineering reviews, “so they don’t just happen overnight.” The last proposed solution, for instance, took a year to develop. It’s hard to say if the WSA will shop around a new solution this year, Boyle said.
That’s why, for now, he said Mother Nature — warm weather, wind and evaporation — is probably the lakes’ best bet. But Rural Municipality of Lakeside deputy reeve Kerry Holderness thinks “they’re waiting too long, and every time they wait, every rainstorm we get, we lose more.”
The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation has indicated that they “ . . . aren’t going to be covering land that remains flooded for multiple years.”
“What we need is an exit strategy for the people in the Quill Lakes to be able to get out,” Holderness said.
City rejects leaky pipes as cause of road collapse
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - A City of Saskatoon official is dismissing claims by a Saskatchewan Crescent resident who believes the collapsed part of his road is caused by leaky storm sewer drainage pipes.
Jeff Jorgenson, the city’s general manager of transportation and utilities, said his department is aware of assertions by Norman Zepp that the crescent-shaped chunk of collapsed road was caused by saturated earth due to leaky pipes. “We have no reason to believe that is any kind of a significant factor in this,” Jorgenson said in an interview. Zepp lives just west of 17th Street and east of where the current slope failure has left a hole in the roadway. Earlier this month, he showed a StarPhoenix reporter and photographer the location of storm sewer drainage pipes along the riverbank.
One pipe is located right below the collapsed road. But Jorgenson said the pipe did not cause the hole, according to studies by city staff and engineering firms hired by the city.
After the riverbank slope failed in 2014, city staff ran a camera from a manhole in the street through the pipe that emerges along the slope near where the Meewasin Valley Trail used to be located, Jorgenson said. Jorgenson said three parts of the pipe were fractured, but no erosion was detected.
“Our conclusion is that the slide broke the pipe,” he said. “It wasn’t the pipe that caused the slide.” Jorgenson said the pipes under Saskatchewan Crescent were installed in the late 1920s. They were inspected in 2014 and continued to be inspected “as required,” Jorgenson explained. Even if the pipes were leaking, that would not be enough water to weaken the ground sufficiently to cause the slumping, he added.
The slumping is due to the nature of the soil, the high groundwater level and the severity of the slope, Jorgenson said. Zepp rejects this explanation.
“This is the fault of the city directly related to civic infrastructure,” Zepp said in an interview. “Nothing to do with nature.”
Saskatchewan Legislative Building dome unveiled
620 CKRM - After more than two years of construction, the Legislature’s dome was revealed in May. The project included $21 million worth of restoration.
The shiny, new appearance of the dome is temporary. Over several months, the copper will oxidize, changing to brown and black, returning to its pre-restoration appearance.
While the project is substantially complete, some finishing touches will be made as the approximately 175,000-pound steel scaffolding built around the dome comes down.
“We were honoured to lead this important project,” PCL district manager Sean Hamelin said. “Contributing to the restoration of this beautiful, emblematic building is truly special.” The restoration of this historic structure, which began in November 2013, preserved its unique decorative features, including its ornate stone and copper elements.
It was carried out in compliance with the Standards and Guidelines for the Conservation of Historic Places in Canada and The Heritage Property Act.
The dome reconstruction was a feat of engineering, requiring nearly 450 workers and craftspeople to complete the task. The Legislative Building’s dome suffered extensive damage in its century-plus existence due to water leaks, ice damming and drastic changes in temperature.
PCL’s Chris Brooks says approximately 7,000 stone repairs were conducted on 2,700 blocks, with 10 000 kg of new stone installed.
Brooks says inscriptions were made of all the workers and those responsible for the completion of the dome – the plaque was quietly laid at the top of the dome-structure several weeks before the final reveal. The names extend nearly around the entire top portion of the dome.
CNSC authorizes McClean Lake mill expansion
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - The Cigar Lake uranium mine has cleared an important regulatory hurdle, meaning the new northern Saskatchewan operation is on track to produce 16 million pounds of packaged yellowcake this year. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) authorized an expansion to 24 million pounds from 13 million pounds at Areva Resources Canada Inc.’s McClean Lake mill, where Cigar Lake uranium is processed and packaged.
Cameco Corp., which operates the mine and owns 50 per cent of it, said in a news release that the nuclear watchdog’s decision means it can meet its 2016 production target — of which its share is 8 million pounds — with full production of 18 million pounds expected in 2017.
Located about 70 kilometres from Cigar Lake, Areva’s McClean Lake mill recently underwent a multi-million-dollar expansion. The company said in a news release that the production increase will make it the world’s second-largest uranium production facility.
“The McClean Lake mill is the most technologically advanced mill in the world for the processing of high-grade uranium ore,” Olivier Wantz, senior vice president of Areva’s mining and front end business group said in a statement. In April, Cameco closed its Rabbit Lake mine in northern Saskatchewan in response to extremely weak uranium prices. The company has said it plans to concentrate on its low-cost mines, including Cigar Lake.