Great Canadian RIVERS 


Working in a Potash Mine
Miners descend to their working areas, or mine faces, in a cable-operated "cage," moving down at a speed of up to 390 metres per minute. Breathing fresh air drawn from the surface and circulated by fans, the miners use the "room-and-pillar" method to extract the potash ore. The areas mined (rooms) are separated by un-mined areas of the same size (pillars), to provide support for the mine. Working areas may be several kilometres from the shaft, accessible through tunnels created by self-propelled boring machines with rotary blades. Ore is stored in bins, which are transported by conveyor belts to large-capacity boxes called "ore skips," for hoisting to the surface.

Esterhazy : Potash Supplier to the World
As the world's largest producer of potash, a key potassium-supplying ingredient of plant fertilizers, the province of Saskatchewan owes its economic windfall to geological history. When the inland sea that once covered southern Saskatchewan evaporated, it left behind massive layers of potash (potassium chloride), about 1-2 kilometres below the prairie.

At the underground K-1 and K-2 mines near Esterhazy, in the lower Qu'appelle Valley, millions of tonnes of potash are produced each year. In combination, the Esterhazy mines are the largest potash-producing facility in the world.

Boring Through the Blairmore: In the 1950's, when mining exploration revealed the magnitude of the Saskatchewan potash deposit, mining technology was called upon to devise a method to extract it. At Esterhazy, shafts were sunk through a shifting, treacherous 90 metre layer of sand and water, known as the "Blairmore Formation." In order to prevent the sand and water from breaking through and flooding the shaft, this layer was frozen until the shaft was reinforced with concrete and steel "tubbing."

Esterhazy's first K-1 mine began commercial production in 1962. A second K-2 shaft was completed 10 kilometres away in 1967, and is connected underground to the K-1 mine.

Saskatchewan Potash Primer

• About 95% of potash produced in the world is used for fertilizer, with 5% used in commercial and industrial products such as soap.
• Potash is processed from potassium-bearing ores such as sylvanite (a mixture of sylvite and common salt). Potassium chloride is the type of potash mined in Saskatchewan.
• Most Saskatchewan potash mines practice conventional underground mining. Two mines use the solution method, pumping brine to the surface for recrystallization.
• In the ground, potash ore is a mixture of red and white crystals with traces of clay and other impurities. After processing, it is white in its pure form but appears pink due to some impurities.
• Finer grade fine potash powder is sold to chemical and manufacturing industries, while coarser granules are sold as fertilizer.
• Like salt, potash reacts to moisture, and must be kept dry.
• Canada is the world's largest producer of potash, and Saskatchewan is Canada's largest producer of potash, producing 90% of Canada's total output (8 million tonnes), and about one-quarter of the world's supply.
• Net Saskatchewan potash sales in 1997 exceeded $2.3 billion USD.
• The largest single producer of potash in Saskatchewan is the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan. Esterhazy's potash mines are operated by the IMC Global Inc. and the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan (Esterhazy Division).
• In addition to Esterhazy,Saskatchewan potash mines are located in Colonsay, Belle-Plaine, Allan, Saskatoon, Lanigan, Patience Lake, Rocanville and Vanscoy.

From Cattle to Canola: Agriculture in the Qu'appelle Valley
Although half the wheat produced in Canada is grown in Saskatchewan, the province's agricultural industry has become more diversified. In the fertile Qu'appelle Valley, beef and hog farms, as well as fields of wheat, canola, rye, oats, barley and flaxseed, contribute to an industry which still produces 20% of Saskatchewan's gross domestic product and employs 20% of it work force.

Futuristic Farming: Qu'appelle Valley farms, like many in Saskatchewan, are large and sophisticated. The town of Indian Head, east of Regina and south of the Fishing Lakes at Fort Qu'appelle, is the valley's agricultural centre. Crop and soil enhancement methods are studied at the Indian Head Research Farm (part of the federal government's Semiarid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre), and the Indian Head Agricultural Research Foundation assists in developing sustainable agriculture systems and adopting them to the larger community. The Foundation's research projects include investigation of Precision Farming techniques, using modern GPS (Global Positioning System) and CAT (Computer Aided Technology) for soil sampling and calculation of variable-rate fertilization.

Just south of Indian Head, the PFRA (Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act) Shelterbelt Centre produces hardy trees and shrubs for prairie farmers, and conducts research on tree-related issues such as pest control and planting technology. The Centre is open to the public, offering horticultural displays, an arboretum, a perennial flower display and a nature trail.