Mosaic Esterhazy one of the largest potash mines in the world
March 6, 2023, 2:37 pm
Now running on all cylinders, Mosaic’s Esterhazy operation is one of the largest, most competitive potash mines in the world. Both shafts at K3 have been in operation for more than a year, and production continues to ramp up towards full hoisting capacity of more than 72,500 tonnes per day. A new daily hoisting record of 63,180 tonnes was reached in September 2022.
Having both shafts in production removes historical ore handling constraints at Esterhazy and ensures capacity for additional ore supply as more mining machines are assembled underground and put into production. Commissioning of a twelfth four-rotor mining machine began in January, and a thirteenth is expected to be completed later this year.
All machines in K3’s fleet can operate autonomously in fully developed production areas – which reduces risk for our employees and eliminates downtime, as they can be safely operated 24/7.
Integrated Operations: Operational Visibility and Real-Time Information
K3 is built on technology and innovation. It is designed to provide annual production of 6 million tonnes, which is about 60,000 rail cars full of potash. This means moving 17-19 million tonnes of ore per year.
Much of those operations are now being monitored and run from a technology-enabled pilot Integrated Operations Center, or IOC, on the surface at K2. Cameras and sensors monitor allow employees in the IOC to view the entire 12-kilometer conveyance system that transports ore from where it is mined 3,350 feet underground, up through the shafts, and across the surface to the K1 and K2 mills for processing.
“The goal of this IOC is to improve production capabilities and increase reliability by integrating our operations from when the ore is mined to when product is loaded on railcars to ship out to our customers,” said Dustin Maksymchuk, General Manager – Esterhazy. “This provides our employees with the operational visibility and information they need, and they are empowered to act on that data in real-time.”
Integrating operations has also allowed us to build management systems and governance processes that help us operate efficiently, effectively, repeatably and sustainably. It also provides new opportunities for employees. “Employees helped us design the IOC, and their input will continue to be crucial as we move forward,” said Dustin.
New roles were created to support integrated operations, including IOC Coordinators responsible for managing the daily operations plan. There are also training and developmental opportunities available for employees to learn about and help refine automated mining controls and systems.
Leveraging the Full Capacity of K1 & K2 Mills
With both shafts at K3 up and running, operations at Esterhazy are no longer shaft-limited and can leverage the full capability of the mills. In addition to the IOC and implementation of new processes like Short-Interval Control, which helps employees maximize production by improving coordination and optimizing runtime, there is other work underway to improve operational reliability of the mills and ensure they are utilized to the fullest capacity.
At the K1 mill, a third compaction circuit is being added that will improve our ability to convert standard tons to granular tons. This means more blend-grade product, which gives us additional production flexibility to meet market demand for specific products. This project is underway and expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
At the K2 mill, a project was recently approved to add a hydrofloat circuit that will increase K2’s overall production capability by 400,000 tonnes – 80 percent of which will be natural crystal granular and the remaining standard product.
Staying Focused on Delivering on our Commitments
Throughout the K3 ramp-up and as we look ahead, the Esterhazy team has remained focused on delivering on our commitments and providing the products our customers need to feed the world.
Over 100 risk reduction projects were completed in 2022, each one an employee idea that helps reduce safety or environmental risks. The K1 and K2 mills operated without a recordable injury for the entire year. We are also making considerable progress improving the safety culture across the site by focusing on employee awareness of ground conditions at K3 and heightened daily inspections in all immediate work areas to identify and address potential hazards.
“Our talented workforce is looking to the future and finding new ways to increase safety, efficiency and connection across our immense operating footprint – building a ‘digital mine’ to power us into the future,” said Dustin. “Employees are leading innovative, technology-enabled improvements that will help ensure we have the operational capacity, reliability and flexibility we need to meet the changing needs of our customers. We’re also remaining focused on safe, responsible operations and investing in our team and local communities.”
This includes our commitment to partnering with local Indigenous communities and building a diverse, inclusive workforce and culture. “The sustainability of our business and our communities are indelibly linked, and we’re proud of the progress we’re making in these areas,” said Dustin. “We’re taking action to strengthen local communities and ensure Mosaic is a place where all people feel welcome, safe, valued and respected.”