BHP is expediting its Jansen project in Canada as two of the world’s biggest potash players, Russia and Belarus, navigate their respective war-driven sanctions.
The major miner’s presentation at the 2022 Bank of America (BofA) Global Metals, Mining & Steel Conference was largely centred on Jansen, which is currently advancing through Stage 1 development.
“Jansen Stage 1 is tracking to plan,” BHP chief executive officer Mike Henry said at the conference.
“Of the $US5.7 billion ($8.12 billion) investment, we’ve awarded around $US1.4 billion ($2 billion) in contracts so far, (and) another $US200 million ($285 million) since our half-year results in February, covering port infrastructure, underground mining systems and other shaft and surface construction activities.
“Stage 1 is compelling in its own right, but the overall Jansen proposition is even more attractive. We see Stage 1 unlocking a new future growth front for the company with significant expansion potential which is expected to support up to a century of production.”
Henry said as BHP progressed Jansen, which was originally on target for first ore in 2027, the company was accelerating development to achieve this milestone in 2026.
It comes as Russia and Belarus, which combine to make up almost 40 per cent of the world’s potash supply, currently navigate a conflict of their own instigation.
In February, Belarus was cut off from its potash export routes, through Lithuania and Ukraine, before independent Belarusian media reported in March that the country’s largest potash producer Belaruskali had halted operations at three of its five mines due to the lack of export routes.
BHP also said it was no closer to embracing lithium despite the commodity’s current performance and future upside.
“It’s not lost on me that I’ve been talking for a year, or a couple of years now, about the fact that we don’t like lithium, it’s not a commodity for BHP long term, and all the while prices have been going up,” Henry said at the conference.
According to Trading Economics, lithium carbonate in China was trading at 457,000 yuan ($96,701) per tonne on May 19. While this is a 4.8 per cent decrease on the month, it’s still a 414 per cent jump from a year before.
Henry said that if BHP made the decision to commit to lithium, there would be enough avenues to get them into the market.
“If we look at the amount of lithium out there, it’s significant,” he said. “So we don’t see a real long-term constraint in terms of resource and barriers to entry are relatively low as we see with all the juniors popping up in Australia currently.”