Mining & Power Generation
Mining and Energy in Southeast Saskatchewan
Mining is Saskatchewan’s third largest industry, a significant contributor to the provincial economy spending over $3 billion annually on wages, goods and services, and generating over $2 billion annually to the provincial government revenue through royalties and taxes. The future looks very positive for this industry with over $10 billion in new mines and expansions underway.
Many resources are mined in Saskatchewan. Some of these, such as coal, clay and mud are utilized directly by the Saskatchewan economy. Other resources such as potash, uranium, gold, diamonds and other minerals have found markets throughout North America and globally.
Saskatchewan accounts for one third of all potash production in the world and one fifth of all uranium production. Coal is the major mineral extracted in the Saskatchewan southeast region. It is used primarily for the generation of energy in the regions power plants.
According to Natural Resources Canada, Saskatchewan led all provinces in value of mineral production in 2008. One out of every five dollars (21.5%) in value of Canadian mineral production came from Saskatchewan.
The following maps indicate the location of resources both provincially and within the southeast Saskatchewan region:
Mining and Energy in Southeast Saskatchewan
- In southeast Saskatchewan coal mining is the major mining activity.
- The coal mines in the region are open pit mines which use a dragline method to extract the coal. The open pit coal mining extraction method is unique to southern Saskatchewan.
- Today, there are three active coal mines in Saskatchewan. Two are in the Estevan/Bienfait area and one near Coronach, Saskatchewan. All three mines are operated by Sherritt Coal, a division of Sherritt International.
- The coal reserves in southern Saskatchewan are on the northern tip of a major coal find which feeds up from the northern United States of America (USA). This major coal seam, the remnants of the last ice age has provided these minable resources in the southern region of Saskatchewan.
- The coal extracted from the three mines is lignite coal, a quality that suits its primary use – thermal electric power generation in the at Shand, Boundary Dam and Poplar River power stations.
- Exports of coal account for a very small percentage of coal extracted. The majority of coal mined is used within the province of Saskatchewan for power generation.
- The typical mining sequence involved in the open pit method utilized by Sherritt Coal consists of six phases:
- Soil salvage – extracting and reusing top soil from a new mining area in a reclamation area
- Overburden removal – the removal of the heavy dirt, clay and debris exposing the coal seam.
- Coal loading – the extraction of coal from the surface, loading and transportation by truck for processing.
- Waste pile contouring – the first step in land reclamation where land is re-contoured in preparation on the final two stages.
- Soil replacement – resurfacing land with topsoil captured from a new mining area.
Re-vegetation – planting grasses and crops to reclaim the land for future sustainable uses.
- In 2009 10 million tonnes of coal was extracted from the three mines in southern Saskatchewan, 6.5 million tonnes from the Estevan/Bienfait mines and 3.5 from the Poplar River mine near Coronach, Saskatchewan.
Production & Energy Generation
- Saskatchewan is presently the third largest producer of coal in Canada.
- Over 70% of the electricity in the province comes from coal-fired power stations which are located in southern Saskatchewan.
- The Boundary Dam Power Station is the largest coal generated thermal electric power plant in Canada. The plant contains six generators capable of producing 516 megawatts of electricity annually.
- Other coal-burning power stations in southeast Saskatchewan include the Shand Power Station also near Estevan with one unit generating 300 megawatts annually, and the Poplar River Power Station near Coronach, Saskatchewan which also generates 300 megawatts annually.
- Construction of a clean coal project is underway at the Boundary Dam Power Station. This use of new technologies will provide a green option to the production of electricity in the province. Both the government of Canada and the government of Saskatchewan have committed $1.5 billion to the project. The project involves the use of both carbon capture and carbon sequestration.
- Spinoffs from this process include the use of carbon captured (CO2) in the enhanced recovery of oil reserves in both new and existing oil wells
- A proposal is also under development by a major energy company to build a coal gasification plant for $625 million that will turn 6,000 tonnes of coal a day into 150,000 barrels of gasoline. Significant tracts of land adjacent to the existed lignite coal beds in southeast Saskatchewan have already been purchased for this project.
Other Uses for Coal By-products in Southeast Saskatchewan
- In addition to producing coal for energy generation the Bienfait mine produces coal for four additional markets:
- Domestic coal use – use by local and regional consumers, businesses and individuals for heating consumption.
- Rail sales to the Ontario Market for coal-fired power plants
- The sale of char, a powdered derivative of the mining process, to markets in Canada and the United States for use in such products as briquettes.
- Activated coal for use in water purification and use in the food industry to control mercury emissions
New Technologies in Coal mining in Southeast Saskatchewan
- Since the 1950’s coal mining extraction technologies have advanced dramatically.
- Pre 1950, most mining activities involved underground coal extraction, a danger to labourers, a cause for health concerns, and a less efficient method of coal extraction.
- Strip mining was introduced in the 1950’s. The machinery, tools and technology have seen major advances. Today, Sherritt Coal employs global positioning systems (GPS), computer aided earthmoving systems (CAES), and health monitoring systems to improve the efficiency and safety of its mining operations.
- The mining industry creates direct and indirect employment for about 25,000 people in the province. A large percentage of these people live and work in rural or northern Saskatchewan.
- The coal mines in southern Saskatchewan directly employ in excess of 650 people in various capacities of operations.
- The average annual salary of an employee in the mining industry is almost twice that of the average annual salary of Saskatchewan residents at $54,758. In the southeast salaries are slightly higher at $58,564 per annum.
- Sherritt Coal employs over 600 people in various capacities of its mining operations: approximately 450 individuals are employed at the Estevan/Bienfait mines and 150 at the Coronach mine.
- As of July 2010 the mines held a proficient safety record. By implementing a program with a collaborative approach, utilizing the skills and knowledge of all employees the mines have maintained a record of 4.7 million man hours without a recordable lost time incident over six years.
Support Services, Associations & Organizations
- Canadian Association of Mining Equipment and Services for Export (CAMESE) is a national, export trade association. It exists to support Canadian mining suppliers in global marketing and to assist foreign buyers in finding Canadian sources for mining equipment and services.
- Canadian Land Reclamation Association (CLRA) is dedicated to the reclamation and rehabilitation of disturbed lands and waterways.
- Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM) is a leading technical society of professionals associated with the Canadian minerals and materials industry and dedicated to the discovery, production, utilization and economics of minerals, metals and petroleum.
- Canadian Mining Industry Research Organization (CAMIRO) is a not-for-profit organization run by the mining industry to manage collaborative mining research. There are three divisions of CAMIRO; Exploration, Mining, and Metallurgical Processing. Each division operates as a separate entity.
- Coal Association of Canada is a member driven organization representing companies engaged in the exploration, development, use and transportation of coal. Its membership includes major coal producers and coal-using utilities, the railroads and ports that ship coal, industry suppliers of goods and services, and municipalities.
- Department of Energy and Resources – Mineral Resources provides basic information and links to initiatives, programs and resources for the mining sector.
- International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) was established to act as a catalyst for performance improvement. The organization consists of 19 mining and metals companies, and 30 national and regional mining associations and global commodity associations.
- Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (TMS) is a professional organization that encompasses the entire range of materials and engineering, from minerals processing and primary metals production to basic research and the advanced applications of materials.
- Mining Association of Canada (MAC) has a mission to promote, through the collective action of members, the growth and development of Canada’s mining and mineral-processing industry, for the benefit of all Canadians.
- MiningSurplus.com features new and used mining equipment for sale from mining operations across Canada, the United States, South America, and Australia.
- Mining-technology.com is a source for information on news, trends and views on topics that shape the mining industry.
- Non Ferrous Metals Consultative Forum Recognising the important contribution that non-ferrous metals can make to the overall sustainable development of society, this forum contains information related to the research and work conducted by the 39 members of three international metal study groups.
- Saskatchewan Mining Association (SMA) Liaises and consults with appropriate departments and agencies of government, both Provincial and Federal, to ensure the safe, profitable and orderly development of the mineral resources of the province, and encourages, organizes and co-ordinates programs of study and research into matters of mutual interest and concern, particularly health, safety, environmental impact, and industrial relations.
- Southeast Saskatchewan Airshed Association (SESAA) is a non-profit organization of public, industry, government, and non-government members devoted to collecting credible, scientifically defensible air quality data for the southeast Saskatchewan region, and to make this data freely available to all stakeholders.
- Sherritt Coal Owner/Operator of all three coal mines in southern Saskatchewan. The website provides details about Sherritt, its operations, careers and other information.