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Whiting to equip giant Argentina potash plant

Whiting Equipment Canada Inc. has won a contract with the global mining giant Vale to supply equipment for a multi-million dollar greenfield potash plant in Argentina.


January 5, 2012
by PLANT STAFF

NIAGARA, Ont.: Whiting Equipment Canada Inc. has won a contract with the global mining giant Vale to supply equipment for a multi-million dollar greenfield potash plant in Argentina.

The company, a Niagara Falls, Ont. manufacturer of custom equipment for the chemical and metallurgical industries, said it will supply salt evaporators and potash crystallizers for Vale’s Potasio Rio Colorado plant in Argentina’s Mendoza Province.

Financial terms of the contract announced Jan. 4 were not disclosed.

In a statement, the company described the US$150-million to $300-million potash crystallization plant as the world’s first new greenfield mining project of its size in more than 40 years and is at the heart of Vale’s US$4.2 billion investment in Argentina.

Whiting Equipment Canada, a subsidiary of Whiting Corp. in Monee, Ill., will be using technology developed by sister company Swenson Technology Inc.

First applied in Saskatchewan 50 years ago, the company said solution mining uses water to dissolve potash from deep underground ore zones. Salt and potash are separated from the brine through fractional crystallization and the water is removed from the slurries and pumped back into the well to dissolve more potash.

Construction of the plant is to begin in December 2012 and it’s to be operational by January 2014, producing 2.4-million tonnes of potash per year (tpa), with potential phased-in increases to 4.2-million tpa before 2020.

The new operation will increase world production by 5% in a current market of about 50-million tpa. Canada is the largest producer (35%); China is the largest consumer (27%).

Whiting Equipment also makes equipment for materials handling and railways, mass transit, and other sectors for world markets.

Vale is one of the world’s biggest miners, with a focus on iron ore, nickel, potash and other minerals.

In Canada, the company owns the former Inco Ltd., which it bought about five years ago in a wave of consolidation that led to the foreign takeovers of major Canadians miners such as Inco, Falconbridge and Alcan.

Files from Canadian Press