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12 October 2017

New potash mine in Belarus to open by 2021

MINSK (BelTA) – A new potash mine in Belarus will be built by 2021, BelTA learned from the Belarusian PR agency AGT.

Boreholes will be drilled and freezing operations will start at premises of the future Nezhinsky mining and processing factory in October. The potash mine is supposed to be ready by 2021. Mine shafts will be drilled using shaft boring roadheaders.

Construction workers are about to finish drilling boreholes about 160m below the surface in order to begin freezing the rock. With this in mind a freezing plant will be deployed at the construction site. Containers with the equipment have already been delivered from Germany. The cooling agent will circulate deep below the surface for eight months to lower the soil temperature to 35C below zero. As a result of the procedure it will be possible to install tubbing columns to fully seal the shaft from subsoil water. The construction workers will build two shafts simultaneously. One is intended for people, the other one is meant for ore.

Denis Yelshanov, Deputy Head of the Construction Preparation Office at Slavkaliy, said: “We are now drilling 160m below the surface. The process will be finished within one month. Freezing will begin after that. We will activate the freezing plant for that. We will bring in pipes to lay down brine pipes in every shaft.”

Using ice wall structures to build mines in swampy areas with abundant subsurface water is an international practice. The German company Deilmann-Haniel is the contractor. It has been building shafts for over 130 years.

Slavkaliy intends to start the main stage of the construction project — the drilling of mine shafts — in mid-2018. Shaft boring roadheaders (SBR) from the German company Herrenknecht will be used for this purpose. The construction crews intend to build mine shafts using these machines instead of explosions. Belarus will be the second country after Canada to use this shaft drilling technology.

The first facility commissioned at the construction site is the country's only cell tower powered by solar cells. It was built by the Belarusian mobile carrier velcom within less than a month. The cell tower is powered by solar energy since access to the power grid is temporarily unavailable. The hybrid energy source comprises solar cells, industrial accumulators, and a diesel generator. As many as 54 solar cells with the total area of 77m2 are installed next to the cell tower. They produce up to 14kW of electricity. In addition to powering the cell tower the solar cells also charge the batteries that keep the cell tower operational at night and in bad weather. The diesel generator will top off the batteries in winter when sunlight is harder to come by. The rest of the year the cell tower can rely on renewable energy from the solar cells.

A camp for construction workers will be built next to the mine. Some 1,500-2,000 people will be employed to build the Nezhinsky mining and processing factory.

The future factory will be able to turn out 1-2 million tonnes of potash fertilizers per annum. A gas-powered cogeneration plant will be built next to the factory. A Chinese contractor will start building a temporary power line in October. The construction of a 5km access road is supposed to begin by the end of the year. A railway line will connect the factory with the rest of the world in the future. The Nezhinsky mining and processing factory will be completed in 2021. There are plans to invest about $2 billion in building the enterprise.