Saskatchewan Business Year in Review Part 4: Southern Saskatchewan

DEEP drilling in southeast Saskatchewan
DEEP drilling in southeast Saskatchewan

As the international border reopens for non-essential travel, the province’s south saw huge findings in its helium and lithium reserves and the announcement of a new canola crushing facility.

This article concludes Industry West’s four-part year-in-review series reflecting on the past year and what lies ahead for Saskatchewan. Finishing in the southernmost parts of Saskatchewan, we find huge potential in the helium, lithium, and geothermal mining industries that are growing out of their infancy.

Northgate receiving $350 million integrated processing facility

Late in May, the Minnesota-based Ceres Global Ag Corp. announced plans to build a $350 million integrated canola processing facility in Northgate to help meet the current and growing global demand for canola products. The state-of-the-art facility will be near the U.S. border and have the capacity to process 1.1 million metric tons of canola and refine over 500 thousand metric tons of canola oil, for both food and fuel, annually.

This new facility is just one of four recent announcements from several companies that will substantially increase Saskatchewan’s canola crush capacity. Ceres Global, Viterra, Cargill, and Richardson International’s investments are all contributing to the Government of Saskatchewan’s Growth Plan’s goal of processing 75 per cent of the canola grown in the province by 2030.

Helium industry continues rising

Royal Helium Ltd. announced on May 12, that the company has made a significant helium discovery at its Climax Helium Project in southwest Saskatchewan. The company estimates the total helium in-place in its prospective area (The Regolith) to be approximately 2.5 billion cubic feet.

Royal Helium Ltd. Drilling at Climax

In June, Royal Helium announced it will expand drilling in southern Saskatchewan, with plans for seven new wells at its Bengough, Griffin, and Ogema blocks. This news comes on the heels of the company’s financing announcement two days earlier, raising $17.25 million.

Royal Helium announced on September 15, that it had drilled its Climax-4 well to 2,701 that this zone “had highest and most consistently elevated helium shows to date on the Climax block.” On December 8, the company reported that Ogema-1 hit helium in three separate zones with samples that tested up to 0.76% helium with reservoir pressures of 27 MPa and flow pressures up to 12.3 MPa. On December 8, the company reported that Ogema-1 hit helium in three separate zones with samples that tested up to 0.76% helium with reservoir pressures of 27 MPa and flow pressures up to 12.3 MPa. Royal Helium controls more than 1 million acres of prospective helium land in southern Saskatchewan.

September 7 saw news that the Calgary-based Global Helium Corp. acquired additional lands and established its third core area in the southern part of the province. Through its several acquisitions, the company now has over 1.2 million of acreage in the province’s helium fairway.

Later in the fall, the Government of Saskatchewan released its plan for the helium sector in the province. Entitled Helium Action Plan: From Exploration to Exports, the province wants to become a world leader in helium, with a goal to supply ten per cent of the global helium market by 2030.

On the same day, Calgary’s Helium Evolution closed on $12.3 million in private placement funding. The company has more than three million acres of helium permits in Saskatchewan.

Irrigation funding

The Government of Saskatchewan announced on June 2, that it has increased funding for irrigation expansion in the province. The funding dollars are for projects that can be completed within the next two years. Program applicants can receive up to $500,00 to finance irrigation infrastructure, up from $300,000.

The Irrigation Development Program is designed to increase irrigation capacity in Saskatchewan by financing infrastructure to bring water to irrigable cropland. This program is outside the province’s planned Lake Diefenbaker Irrigation Expansion Project, which was announced in 2020.

Richardson International Announces New Grain Facility

June 14 brought news of Richardson’s latest investment in Saskatchewan, with the announcement of plans for a new high throughput grain elevator at Carmichael. The company began construction this month, with a completion date in Fall 2022.

The new facility is located 65 km of Swift Current and will include 46,000 metric tonnes of storage capacity with a loop track rail design able to load 175 high cube rail cars. After the first phase of construction is complete, Richardson will add a high-speed fertilizer blender and a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse, both due to come online the following year.

SaskTel adding investment to rural broadband infrastructure

SaskTel will increase its investment into its Rural Fibre Initiative by $50 million, bringing the total to $100 million. The investment will bring fibre optic broadband to another 24 rural communities across the province than previously planned.

The Rural Fibre Initiative was announced in December 2020 as a multi-phase program to bring SaskTel’s InfiniNET broadband internet to more than 40 communities by the end of 2023.

Centres involved in the program include Balgonie, Biggar, Langham, Pilot Butte, Kindersley, Meadow Lake, Rosetown, Canora, Carlyle, Esterhazy, Fort Qu’Appelle, Hudson Bay, Indian Head, Kamsack, La Ronge, Lumsden, Maple Creek, Moosomin, Shaunavon, Watrous and Wynyard.

DEEP Earth Energy is heating up

DEEP Earth Energy (DEEP) announced in June that the company has successfully completed the Front-End Engineering and Design (FEED) with a corresponding feasibility study and report on its first geothermal power facility in the province’s southeast. The facility’s nominal output is expected to be 32 Megawatts (MW) and will produce up to 33.4 MW of net power during the winter and a minimum of 20 MW net power during summer – a first in Canada.

DEEP has also secured $3 million in financing in its latest round with a provision for another $3.5 million. The Calgary-based PHX Energy Services Corp., has made the investment and is keen to join the project to develop Canada’s first geothermal power facility. More investment was announced on July 20, when Deep received a $4.5 million private placement offering.

DEEP’s long-term goal is to develop 100s of MWs of baseload power facilities from small, scalable and repeatable 5-20 MW power plants, each of which could power up to 5,000 households.

Prairie Lithium digs deep with DEEP and PFM Capital

Prairie Lithium. Photo by Greg Huszar - Ministry of Energy and Resources

Prairie Lithium. Photo by Greg Huszar – Ministry of Energy and Resources

In October, DEEP and Prairie Lithium Corp. (Prairie Lithium) announced that the two companies have agreed to exchange subsurface mineral permits and establish “an Area of Mutual Interest (AMI)” in the Williston Sedimentary Basin located in southeast Saskatchewan.

The AMI exchange covers 110,227 hectares of land that increases resource development capacity for both companies. Beyond the exchange, DEEP and Prairie Lithium have agreed to share well data and testing opportunities.

Prairie Lithium is a dual-stream developer of lithium resource and lithium extraction technology, with a project-based in the Williston Basin. October 14 saw news that Prairie Lithium Corp. completed a $7.5 million private placement, led by Regina’s PFM Capital Inc.– Saskatchewan’s largest private equity investment firm.

The offering was upsized from $4 million, due to demand and the company will use the funds for exploration and development, process development, and working capital.

Additionally, Grounded Lithium Corp., a new private lithium brine exploration firm with land ownership in Saskatchewan, announced its intention to complete a non-brokered private placement of up to $5.5 million from the sale of common shares.

Pasqua First Nation Chief and Council. Photo by Shane Luhning.

Pasqua First Nation Becomes Majority Shareholder

Pasqua First Nation, through the PFN Group of Companies, has become the major shareholder in Atlas Biotechnologies Inc., an Edmonton-based cannabis company. Atlas, through its partnership with PFN, will also launch an Indigenous wellness brand of cannabis that is combined with traditional Indigenous healing medicines.