Potash mine opponents meet at legislature

REGINA – A small group of landowners and farmers from Southey, Sask., crowded into a room at the legislature to say no to a proposal to build a $3.6 billion potash mine on or near their land.

The group of six say they could lose their entire way of life if a Chinese company called Yancoal moves in to take over land that their families have been farming for generations.

They say they’re frustrated by what they describe as a lack of public consultation about the details of the mine including the environmental impacts.

They say the company held town hall meetings with poster boards, but they didn’t address all their concerns.

Yancoal Canada says the project is still in its early stages but the public comment period ended last week and a decision on whether to proceed will come soon, possibly in July.

Others who live in the region say they support the project, saying it will provide an economic benefit to the area.

Neil Wagner, one of the group opposing the mine, said the community doesn’t need it because the agricultural industry in the area is growing.

“The proper engagement wasn’t done to begin with,” said landowner Thera Nordal, whose home and business are located on the proposed mine site. “This isn’t about money for us — this is our home and our culture.”

Chelsea Manz, part of the local economic development association, said everyone stands to benefit from an influx of money in the community along with upgrades to roads and cellular service.

“It affects family heritage farms … and of course we’re sympathetic to that and we have to just try and work with what we’re given,” she said. “At this stage in the game we should just try and look toward solutions, instead of just keep presenting the problems.”

She said the environmental impact reports have already been submitted and she trusts that if SaskWater supports the project, then it must be sustainable for the water supply.

The NDP opposition raised the questions about the consultation process to Economy Minister Bill Boyd during question period at the legislature.

“I want them to know that the government of Saskatchewan has a strict regulatory regime, but it supports the responsible development of Saskatchewan’s resources,” Boyd said.

“Officials from the Ministry of the Environment, SaskWater, and Ministry of the Economy have accommodated meetings with the public to answer questions and concerns on Yancoal’s potash project.”