K+S Potash Canada's (KSPC) Legacy Project mine site, which opened this month, was no easy task to work on for Canadian Pacific (CP) Railway.
Now named Bethune Mine, it is the first of its kind built in Saskatchewan in more than 40 years. The rail infrastructure built to serve the mine is the most significant engineering project undertaken by CP since the mid-1980s.
"While CP has achieved many great feats in its 136-year history, what we have achieved in close collaboration with K+S Potash Canada is right up there," said Justin Meyer, CP'S vice-president of engineering.
He said construction of the Belle Plaine subdivision is the largest single rail infrastructure project CP has been involved in since the building of the MacDonald Tunnel in British Columbia in the mid-'80s.
"It wasn't easy and required innovative thinking, hard work and the will to succeed despite all obstacles," he said.
The 30-kilometre route to the mine site was a geotechnical challenge as grading through the valley required the movement of millions of cubic metres of earth. That's equivalent to 1,500 football fields with one metre of dirt piled from goal line to goal line.
Adding to the scope of the project was the construction of a 137 metre bridge and 70 metre tunnel.
"We set aggressive timelines — gave ourselves just under two years to not only move massive volumes of earth but complete pipeline relocations as well as track, bridge and tunnel construction," he said.
Crews used 50,000 ties, 4,500 tonnes of steel for plates, rail and bolts and 90,000 tonnes of ballast to complete the project.
"Building 30 kilometres of new rail through a rural area, including a river valley, is no easy feat and I want to congratulate all those who invested their time and energy in bringing this project to a successful conclusion," said CP president and CEO Keith Creel in a statement.
CP will primarily use unit trains — trains that consist of only one type of cargo — to ship the potash products to KSPC's handling and storage facility in Port Moody, B.C. then on to overseas markets. These unit trains will be approximately a mile-and-a-half long, consisting of 177 rail cars.
"KSPC needed to ensure that transportation of product from our mine to our port facility would be both secure and competitive," said Dr. Ulrich Lamp, president and CEO, KSPC. "We are so pleased to see the finished rail infrastructure."
The mine will have marketable product by the end of the second quarter in 2017 and will reach a production capacity of two million tonnes of potash by the end of 2017.
In 2013, CP signed an exclusive, long-term contract with KSPC to deliver its potash products safely and efficiently to international markets.
According to KSPC's website, the company broke ground on the project in 2012. With an investment volume of around 3.1 billion euros, the Bethune Mine is the largest single project in the company's history and creates more than 400 permanent jobs in Canada.