NEWS FROM THE FIELD
Sask hopes to add wind power capacity
The Canadian Press - Saskatchewan is launching a new request for proposals to add up to 300 megawatts of wind power generation capacity.
Environment Minister Dustin Duncan, who is responsible for Crown-owned SaskPower, says the process will help the province quadruple its wind power when the successful project or projects come online in late 2023 or 2024. Speaking at the Canadian Wind Energy Association conference in Calgary, Duncan says the province is committed to growing its renewable energy sector despite its opposition to the federal government’s carbon tax.
SaskPower’s last power procurement process resulted in granting Potential Renewables Inc. a 25-year power purchase agreement last year for its 200-MW Golden South Wind Energy Facility.
The plant near Assiniboia in southern Saskatchewan is expected to come online in 2021. “Up to about 16 per cent of our generation capacity will be wind and currently we’re at about four per cent,” said Duncan. “So, we’re in the process of quadrupling our capacity and our goal is that renewables will make up to 50 per cent of our generating capacity by 2030.”
Nuclear reactor core transported to US
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - The operation was conducted in near-total secrecy.
Only those who absolutely needed to know were aware of the truck’s load when it pulled away from the University of Saskatchewan and headed for the American border.
While the Saskatchewan Research Council, which oversaw the journey, won’t say much about other security precautions, its chief executive officer acknowledged that secrecy was of paramount importance for obvious reasons.
That’s because the truck was carrying the core of a nuclear reactor, a paint can-sized assembly of uranium fuel rods and beryllium control structures immersed in water and sealed in an 8,000-pound lead-lined transport container.
Once the truck reached the border, it was handed over to U.S. Department of Energy officials and transported to the Savannah River Site, a nuclear facility in South Carolina where the core will be repurposed. De-fuelling the reactor was the first step toward its eventual decommissioning, a lengthy process that is expected to take between six and nine months and cost SRC up to $7.5 million. This time next year, the reactor will be entirely gone.
Built into the floor of a nondescript Innovation Place building and shielded by more than a foot of concrete, the Safe LOW Power Kritical Experiment (SLOWPOKE) reactor was one of seven commissioned across the country. While the reactor uses the same nuclear fission process as a utility-scale reactor like the one Bruce Power proposed for Saskatchewan a decade ago, it is tiny — roughly 1/10,000 the size, producing around 20 kilowatts of power.
During its 37-year operational life, it performed more than a quarter-million tests. The reactor was used primarily for neutron activation analysis, a process aimed at determining the concentration of various elements in various samples.
Over the last few years, new, non-radiological methods of performing many of the same tests have been developed, which some say that in terms of its “overall raison d’être, it was no longer operationally viable, commercially or technically”.
New swine transport disinfection reaches trial
Thepigsite.com - Scientists with the University of Saskatchewan, the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, the Prairie Swine Centre and the Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute are working on behalf of Swine Innovation Porc (Swine Innovation Porc is a non-profit corporation committed to facilitating research in the Canadian swine sector) to improve the efficiency of washing swine transport trailers and the inactivation of disease causing pathogens.
Speaking to Farmscape, Dr Terry Fonstad, Ph.D., P.Eng., P.Ag., FEC, a professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, says phase-3 will hopefully move the project toward commercialisation. "PAMI's work has now brought in partners from the robotics industry, a robotics company out of Ontario and a hydrovac system company out of Wisconsin, that are interested in combining their talents to actually perhaps commercialise the wash system," explains Dr. Fonstad.
"VIDO's work will go into the field. In the lab we know we can kill these pathogens with heat, but now we have to take pathogens that may have the same characteristics, but not be swine pathogens, and test them in actual bake ovens that bake trailers and make sure that we're actually getting the kill that we need.” "They may have to be proxy pathogens. We're working through that with them.”
"The Prairie Swine Centre is working with the trailer manufacturers and we, at the College of Engineering are working with a private company called Transport Genie and Be Seen Be Safe out of Guelph that is actually already working on the humidity and temperature sensing for animal welfare and we're going to add onto their product the ability to trace the trailer, GPS, and be able to sense the heating of the actual trailer frame for pathogen destruction."
Dr. Fonstad says the hope is that, by the end of phase-3, all of these things can go onto commercialisation and that the academics can back off a bit and answer the few remaining lingering questions and that industry can take the lead.
Gas power plant coming to Moose Jaw
CJME News - SaskPower will proceed with a 350-megawatt natural gas power plant in Moose Jaw after reviewing new federal regulations that put the plans in jeopardy over the summer.
The federal government unveiled new rules in June that required natural gas plants coming online after 2021 to be emissions-free by 2030 or pay the carbon tax.
At the time, SaskPower’s CEO said the Crown corporation would have to examine the cost implications of the new rules and what technology it would be able to use.
The minister responsible for SaskPower, Dustin Duncan, said the corporation looked at alternatives before deciding to build the plant.
“Knowing that by 2024 we need that 350 megawatts of baseload power and really doing all the analysis, this was still the most cost-effective way to do so, despite the fact that the carbon tax would now be applied on the emissions,” Duncan said.
The facility is expected to be complete in 2024 and will produce enough baseload power for a city the size of Saskatoon, according to SaskPower.
Moose Jaw was chosen as the site of the plant over other locations in the province because that city is in a corridor where the demand will be the highest. Duncan noted that other plants could follow in other areas. “This is not the end of the demand for baseload power,” Duncan said. “Moose Jaw is the next plant, but we’re going to have to be looking in the next decade as well as anywhere from 350 (megawatts) to perhaps a 700-megawatt plant somewhere in the province too.
Duncan said the plant will cost $800 million to build and there will be $350 million in carbon tax costs associated with the operations of the plant between 2024 and 2030.
Drill program planned for Athabasca Project
Streetwise Reports - Skyharbour Resources Ltd., is planning a diamond drill program to commence in late 2019 or early 2020 at its Moore uranium project in Saskatchewan.
This comes on the heels of Pioneer Aerial Surveys Ltd., completing an unmanned aerial vehicle magnetometer survey at Moore. Specifically, the survey was conducted over the Maverick structural corridor there, which hosts several high-grade uranium zones in the underlying basement rock.
The 2,500-metre campaign will test unconformity and basement targets along the Maverick structural corridor along with selected prospective regional targets. Drilling also will be done, conditions allowing, on portions of the recently discovered Otter zone.
New Orano CEO returning to home province
Orano Canada - Vincent Martin, President and Chief Executive Officer of Orano Canada Inc., recently announced the appointment of Jim Corman, P.Eng., as his replacement as of Sept. 1, 2019.
With this appointment, Corman, currently the director projects and industrial support at Orano Mining in Paris and previously vice-president operations, engineering and projects at Orano Canada in Saskatoon, is returning to his home province.
Corman, a graduate of the University of Saskatchewan’s Geological Engineering program, joined Orano’s predecessor company, COGEMA, as a geological engineer in 1993 and held a number of operational management positions in Saskatchewan before moving to Paris in 2016.
Corman was involved in the discovery, development and operation of the McClean Lake project, which today boasts the only uranium mill capable of processing uranium ore grades 100 times the world average without dilution.
Potash mine gets conditional approval
Global News - CanPacific Potash Inc. is one step closer in developing a new 3.25-million tonne-per-year solution mine in southern Saskatchewan.
The company was given conditional approval for its Albany Potash Project based on the findings of an environmental assessment.
CanPacific must meet the following conditions:
For native grassland and wetland habitat that cannot be avoided by the project, CanPacific must develop a compensation plan for approval by the Ministry of Environment.
The plan will identify affected native grassland and wetlands, identify the methods to restore/enhance existing areas or create new native prairie/wetlands and provide a timeline for completing the work and monitoring the areas.
CanPacific must submit a signed development plan agreement to the RM of Francis prior to construction proceeding. The company must also obtain further ministerial approval for future development of the 20-year well-field areas.
The Albany potash mine would be located 50 kilometres southeast of Regina, near Francis and Sedley.
Nutrien aims for mine of the future
Saskatoon StarPhoenix - Nutrien wants to build the “mine of the future” to better compete against companies like EuroChem and Uralkali, which it says can extract potash much more cheaply from shallower deposits in Russia.
The company is working to lower its roughly US$60-per-tonne cash cost of production by ramping up its newly expanded Rocanville mine while relying on its diversification into agriculture retail to shelter it from the worst of the commodity cycle.
It also aims to make its older operations like Cory, which was commissioned in 1969, more efficient and cheaper to run.
That includes everything from finding ways to reduce power consumption in the mill to further automating the boring machines and other equipment working underground, a project expected to take the next 10 to 20 years. Susan Jones, the company new head of potash, hopes the work will have the corollary effect of allowing Nutrien to make its underground workforce more diverse — a challenge every company in the province is facing and attempting to address.
Nutrien says about 28 per cent of its potash employees in the technical and safety areas are women. That is broadly comparable with other companies extracting potash in the province, which have previously reported ratios in the 20 per cent range.
Long and Jones both acknowledged that shifting long-standing perceptions about the industry beyond any one company is vital to address what one Nutrien employee said is the problem of women not applying for potash jobs.
That work is underway through organizations like the Saskatchewan Mining Association. Jones said she is optimistic about a more diverse future at a mine with reserves that could theoretically allow it to continue operating for another 100 years.
Mining plans include drilling incentive, lithium extraction and rare earths processing
ResourceClips.com - It’s interesting enough now but the manifesto might make even more compelling reading 10 years from now.
That’s the due date for no less than 30 lofty economic and social goals announced in Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan on November 14. Not surprising for a province where mining plays such an important role, the government intends to further encourage the industry. But the agenda goes well beyond Saskatchewan’s standbys of potash and uranium to call for the development of nuclear energy, lithium extraction technologies and “the first North American REE processing plant to deliver individual high-purity REEs.”
Among the objectives already achieved is the renewed PST exemption on drilling. In a news release from the Saskatchewan Mining Association, Purepoint Uranium TSXV:PTU VP of exploration Scott Frostad describing drilling as “the lifeblood of a sustainable mining sector”.
“All discoveries are made through drilling and the life of a mine is extended through drilling off additional reserves. Monies recovered through reinstatement of the PST exemption on drilling will be invested in more holes being drilled, which will increase the prospects of finding the next Saskatchewan mineral deposit or extending the life of an existing mine.”
Exploration spending in the province’s north will surpass $200 million this year, the SMA stated. “Drilling costs represent almost half of a typical exploration budget. For every $1 spent on drilling, another $1.30 is spent on support activities such as geophysics, groceries, camp and air support, and professional services, with the majority of this spend with companies operating out of northern Saskatchewan.”
If the growth plan goes to plan, Saskatchewan will find another customer for its uranium. That would be Saskatchewan itself, which will work with New Brunswick and Ontario to generate electricity with small modular nuclear reactors. Combined with wind and solar, the province hopes to make up to 80 per cent of its energy mix emissions-free. Saskatchewan currently generates most of its electricity from coal and natural gas.
The province also sees potential in strategic and critical metals, touting “world-class resources of both lithium and rare earth elements, which are extracted as part of oil and uranium production”.
The Saskatchewan Party government plans to consider partnerships with industry, universities and research institutes to develop lithium extraction, to work with miners to develop rare earths, “including production of high-value REE concentrate in Saskatchewan within the next two years,” and to host the continent’s first plant to process individual high-purity REEs.
[A rare earths processing plant] would be a first in Canada that would create jobs, increase exports and provide a significant opportunity for value-added manufacturing.—Government of Saskatchewan.
“This would be a first in Canada that would create jobs, increase exports and provide a significant opportunity for value-added manufacturing,” the government stated.
The province also pledged to increase its natural resource competitiveness by streamlining permitting and creating a Geoscience Data Management System “to increase exploration efficiency, improve drilling and development outcomes, and make new discoveries.”
Among the plan’s 30 goals are increasing annual uranium sales to $2 billion and potash to $9 billion. Ambitious infrastructure plans entail highway expansion and upgrades, a north-south rail line and support for pipeline expansion and a national infrastructure corridor to enhance connections with the port of Vancouver and establish a link with the port of Churchill, Manitoba.
Last year, mining contributed over $7 billion to Saskatchewan’s GDP, which reached an all-time high of $82.5 billion with the country’s third-highest growth rate. According to the SMA, the industry employs 30,000 people directly and indirectly, with a payroll of over $1.4 billion to direct employees, and is proportionally Saskatchewan’s largest private sector employer of indigenous workers.
Helium drilling on tap in southwest
Prairie Post - One of the largest helium leaseholders in Canada has identified seven drill targets for primary helium production at its Climax property in southwest Saskatchewan.
Royal Helium Ltd. has more than 300,000 acres of prospective helium land in southwest and south-central Saskatchewan.
The company’s leaseholds in the Climax area represent about a quarter of its total land holdings and it has been the initial focus of exploration.
The company completed geotechnical studies in early 2019 that focused on known fields and formations in Saskatchewan where primary helium is currently produced or was previously produced. This assessment used existing helium well data along with seismic information, government and geological data.
Further assessment identified deeper basement structures underneath the Climax land with approximately 3,094 hectares of four-way structural closure, which is the ideal structural formations to trap helium formed in the Precambrian basement.
These findings are promising, but the company emphasized that Royal Helium will only have a clear idea of the volume of helium after wells have been drilled.
The company has no firm timeline for starting a drilling program because it wants to continue with the same exploration program at its other land holdings in southwest Saskatchewan.
It is hoping to have a roll-out date for drilling in all these project areas in 2020. The company’s initial geological and seismic data review of its land holdings in the Swift Current, Cadillac, Val Marie and Shaunavon areas and other land around Climax already indicated similar basement formations and structural traps for helium.
Royal Helium’s goal is to become a leading North American helium producer and it wants to focus on primary helium found in Saskatchewan.
The company decided to focus its exploration activities on Saskatchewan for several reasons. There has been small-scale helium production in the province since the 1960s, although larger scale exploration efforts have only started in recent years.
There are favourable conditions for finding primary helium in the province, because Saskatchewan has some of the world’s largest concentrations of uranium, and helium is created through the natural decay of radioactive elements such as uranium and thorium. In southern Saskatchewan the geological conditions created four-way structural closures that might trap helium.
U of S partners with STC, mining companies
Yorkton This Week - With a $133,000 investment from Saskatchewan mining companies through the International Minerals Innovation Institute, the University of Saskatchewan is partnering with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) on a new mentorship program for Indigenous women.
Launched in October at the U of S, MentorSTEP supports Indigenous women to pursue STEM and related business, health and environmental disciplines related to mining. Saskatchewan’s mining industry aims to build bridges for Indigenous women to step into technical, production and professional roles.
MentorSTEP brings together roughly 20 members of Saskatchewan’s mining community, matched as mentors to young Indigenous women at U of S who are pursuing a variety of STEM and related degrees. As well, Indigenous high school girls from Saskatoon and participating First Nation partner schools will engage with U of S student mentors in STEM disciplines.
The two-year pilot program supports mentorship and research internships, including professional engagement events such as virtual mine tours, Indigenous cultural ceremonies, learning labs, site visits, networking and career development.
MentorSTEP is founded on Indigenous mentorship practice of shared activities, experiences, stories and cross-cultural learning. Mentors and mentees meet monthly and learn from each other through group events. Research internship applications for summer 2020 will open in February.
Canada’s mining industry is the leading private sector employer of Indigenous people in Canada, at six to seven per cent of its workforce. Many mines are right next door to Indigenous communities, where local talent and local careers are key to success. Women currently occupy about 17 per cent of minerals industry positions across Canada, though the majority hold administrative and support roles.
Student invention a winter game changer?
CKOM- The days of seeing Saskatoon streets covered in snake-like cords in the winter could be coming to an end thanks to a local engineer.
It has been a long, seven-year journey, but soon William Topping will see the VoltSafe magnetic block heater cord on store shelves.
It’s a cord with a magnetic end that you plug into the block heater on your vehicle, then use another magnetic cord to plug into an electrical outlet. The ability to magnetically disconnect, prevents the cord from being torn from the vehicle’s block heater.
It won’t only keep people from driving off with their cords still plugged in — it will also be a huge help for people with disabilities or mobility issues.
Topping’s friend had a stroke and he said she was actually having to use her teeth as a “second hand” to plug her cord in.
Topping said a big part of the waiting game has been the certification process because of the nature of the product.
VoltSafe magnetic block heater cords should be in Co-op stores by the middle of December.
VR technology challenges students
CBC Saskatchewan - When it comes to engineering, there’s no room for error. If a major structure such as a bridge fails, the results can be catastrophic, even deadly.
But the engineering college at the University of Saskatchewan has found a way to let students try and fail. The college is using virtual reality technology that allows students to enter a computer-generated 3D bridge-building exercise, put the trusses together and then test their strength.
Previously, engineering students would have to test their theories about truss strength through detailed mathematical calculations, leaving little room for play. The new technology changes that.
The computer takes care of the math and then the students get a feel for how a bridge behaves in certain situations. Students can focus on manipulating the forces they are applying to the bridge and see what it does visually. That’s a much better, more effective learning experience.
The success they’ve seen in engineering has attracted interest from other academic disciplines at the university, including kinesiology, medicine and geography. The university is also working to begin sharing the Truss VR system with other engineering schools in Canada. sustainable, healthy and equitable way.