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Innovation in Prairie Potash

Potash is a billion-dollar industry and Saskatchewan is the world leader in its production and sales. The province accounts for more than 45 per cent of known potash resources globally, making efficient potash processing practices important for the economy, the environment, and the world food supply. This means that innovation is at the forefront of the mining industry, and the University of Regina is trying to help.

“I decided to try using polymeric reagents in an effort to affect potash flotation in a more environmentally friendly way,” explains environmental systems professor Dr. Stephanie Young.

Young proposed her idea during the inaugural North American AIMday (Academia Industry Meeting day), an event akin to speed dating that matches industry need with research expertise.

The March 2017 event was jointly hosted by the University of Saskatchewan, the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII), and in collaboration with the University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic. The focus was on finding solutions to mining sector problems.

Prior to AIMday, companies identified challenges that needed solutions. Then, during one-day workshops, groups of academic experts tackled the problems. They were allotted one hour to discuss possible solutions, and then submitted short proposals.

Nutrien, a Saskatoon-based fertilizer company, and one of the largest potash producers in the world, posed a question about enhancing the potash extraction process.

“As an expert in water and wastewater treatment, not potash flotation, I took a chance when I decided to tackle industry’s question,” says Young. “AIMday provided a good opportunity to work in a new and exciting area.”

Others are glad she took the chance, too.

“We are focused on innovation and continually enhancing what we do,” says Courtney Rohachuk, senior process engineer at Nutrien. “So we are excited to have partnered with Stephanie Young on this project because her findings could positively affect Nutrien, the potash industry as a whole, and the environment.”

Today marks AIMday AgTech 2018, hosted by the Innovation Enterprise at the University of Saskatchewan, in collaboration with the University of Regina and Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Stephanie Young’s AIMday project is supported by the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII).

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