Port of Saint John becomes exporter of potash despite Sussex mine shutdown

CTV Atlantic
Published Tuesday, June 11, 2019 11:11PM ADT
Last Updated Tuesday, June 11, 2019 11:12PM ADT

Pipelines have been controversial, but the so-called potash pipeline between Saskatchewan and Saint John has been a surprise success story even after our region’s only potash mine ceased production.

When potash mining abruptly came to an end three years ago in the Sussex area, the next domino that was expected to fall was the potash export terminal at the port of Saint John.

“In the worst-case scenario, we saw the potash terminal being mothballed, said Pat Riley of the International Longshoreman’s Association. “Without potash it just does not work.”

But it is working, with potash mined in Saskatchewan and shipped by rail to New Brunswick.

“It’s a potash pipeline if you will,” said Jim Quinn, the CEO of the Port of Saint John. “From the West, from Saskatchewan, from right across Canada, with our longest heaviest trains, through Moncton, to the port and out to the global marketplace.”

The potash industry says, even though the product wasn’t coming from New Brunswick anymore, shipping potash thousands of kilometers across the country was still worthwhile.

“An agreement was made that it made sense that this port stay active and it became a distributor and a port of call for potash,” said Doug Doney, the general manager for Nutrien N.B. “So that’s allowed us to stay active and keep it part of the system.”

The waterfront union admitted to being a bit skeptical at first, but has come around.

“We knew it wasn’t impossible to do, but the idea that the potash terminal today is doing the same level of business it did, when the potash mine shut down, that’s a pretty amazing success story for the port of Saint John,” Riley says.

Potash shipments hit a new record last year, and may yet again, as the Saskatchewan mining companies search for new markets in Africa.

The jobs here can’t replace the 400 jobs lost when the potash mine closed, but it is a remnant of the potash industry, except now New Brunswick is shipping potash rather than mining it.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Mike Cameron.