The Vancouver Fraser Port Authority is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks on a proposal by Westshore Terminals in Delta to handle large volumes of potash.
A port authority spokesperson noted the Westshore project is still undergoing a review as part of the port’s project and environmental process.
Westshore Terminals Ltd. Partnership’s project permit application includes modifications to the existing facility at Roberts Bank to use a portion of the site for potash export, but the footprint would not be increased.
It would have a capacity of up to 4.5 million tonnes per year, starting in 2026, displacing the same amount of current coal handling capacity at the site.
While the $800 million project has to undergo a project and environmental review process, it does not trigger separate provincial or federal environmental assessments.
The product would come from mining company BHP Billiton (BHP), which is developing a new $7.5 billion potash mine in Saskatchewan called the Jansen Mine.
BHP previously proposed a potash terminal at Fraser Surrey Docks, but that application was withdrawn.
Some of the modifications planned for the current Delta facility, which has been handling coal since 1970, includes a new enclosed potash rail car dumper on the south side of the site, approximately 2,200 metres of new enclosed conveyors and transfer towers connecting the new rail car dumper to a storage building and the existing Berth 2, dust collectors at conveyor transfer points, as well as new storm water collection and treatment facilities to handle potash contact water.
A new rail line for the project will be limited to a section on-site needed to access the new potash dumper.
According to Westshore, an analysis anticipates emissions will be similar to existing levels.
Westshore also points out the emissions have decreased over the years as the company has implemented technology and procedural changes to reduce dust emissions, independent of any permit requirements.
Westshore also notes although allowances are being made for a future expansion of potash shipments, there is no time frame for such activities and any expansion would be subject to a separate permitting process.
A report by Westshore on a summary of its public engagement notes, from the feedback Westshore received, there was no clear indication of either support or opposition to the project.
The majority of the comments were seeking clarification or had misunderstood the project activities.
A City of Delta report to council says civic staff “believe that overall the project is a positive step forward.”
Potash is a common fertilizer used to provide nutrients to agricultural crops and house plants.