News Details

IMII funds U of S research to enhance underground safety in Saskatchewan potash mines

SASKATOON – Deep underground in a potash mine, lives can depend on ensuring the ground is stable and that where required, reinforcement with steel rebar is effective.

Resin-bonded rebar is often drilled into potash mine ceilings to proactively reinforce them to prevent rock from falling (ground falls).

While these events are rare, even small ground falls can be dangerous and that is why industry is funding research to gauge the effectiveness of resin-bonded rebar.

The International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII) and three of its member companies are investing $127,500 over two and half years in University of Saskatchewan (U of S) engineering research that will advance understanding in this area.

“Underground safety is of primary importance for the Saskatchewan potash industry, the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash,” said IMII Executive Director Al Shpyth. “This project will provide insights into whether the resin-supported rebar in the mines is doing the work it was designed to do.  This will help mine engineers determine whether additional work is needed to maintain support and enhance safety.”

Doug Milne and Lisa Feldman, associate professors, and Paul Hughes, an assistant professor, all in the U of S Department of Civil and Geological Engineering, will lead research into rebar strength under shear deformation and the effect of hole and rebar size on support behaviour in underground potash operations. The project will be supported by a graduate student pursuing a master in science degree, as well as undergraduate summer students.

IMII funding members Agrium, Mosaic and PotashCorp will also make in-kind contributions totaling $148,800 to support the research. An additional $101,095 will be sought from federal funding agencies.

Materials science and its applications is a primary research area of the U of S College of Engineering.  

“This collaboration between our researchers and industry will lead to innovations that will help ensure potash mining remains a safe and sustainable component of our provincial economy,” said Interim Engineering Dean Don Bergstrom. “This investment is further recognition of our ability to provide technological solutions to the mining industry, while also training highly skilled students.”

The new project is in addition to four projects announced in January by the IMII, the University of Regina, and the U of S, as part of the $1.2-million Mining Materials Research Cluster set up to study  materials used in mineral processing and mining equipment for Saskatchewan's potash industry. The cluster is supported by the Canadian government through Western Economic Diversification Canada, and additional support is being sought from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Mitacs for all the projects under the cluster.

About IMII:

The IMII is a unique industry-government-post-secondary education and research institution partnership jointly funded by industry and government. The Institute is a catalyst to developing industry-driven education and training programs to address labour force needs in the minerals sector, and conducting industry-driven research and development to address common needs with regards to safety, structural design, mining materials and the environment.

About the University of Saskatchewan:

The University of Saskatchewan is one of Canada’s top 15 research-intensive universities, welcoming more than 20,000 Canadian and international students annually. Energy and mineral resources are among its signature areas of research strength, emphasizing sustainable resource development and sound policy to meet society’s needs while conserving ecosystems and sharing benefits with all.



For more information, contact:



Al Shpyth, Executive Director

(306) 668-2057


University of Saskatchewan

Jennifer Thoma

Media Relations Specialist

(306) 966-1851



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