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Mosaic Potash Plant Expansion

Project Highlights

  • Installed 11,513 track feet of rail
  • Constructed 15 turnouts
  • Constructed five road crossings
The Mosaic Company
Esterhazy, Saskatchewan
Provided By
PNR Railworks

PNR RailWorks built a load-out facility as part of the expansion of Mosaic’s K2 Potash Mine in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan.

From June to November in 2011, a PNR RailWorks crew constructed a new load-out facility at the K2 mine in Esterhazy, part of Mosaic’s massive potash operation there. K2 and sister mine K1 together produce more potash, used primarily in fertilizer, than any other operation in the world: 5.3 million metric tons per year (Mtpy).

The job’s success relied in part on PNR RailWorks’ experience and creativity. PNR RailWorks spotted design flaws in plan drawings and suggested changes to Hatch, the engineering contractor, which Hatch then implemented. In addition, several techniques helped save time. When spring and summer rain storms caused saturated track sub-grade, while waiting for approved sub-grade, the crew built switch packs (turnouts) that they would later move into proper locations. They pre-ballasted before they laid ties down, allowing them to reduce the number of passes required to complete tamping to design elevation. Another reason tie installation moved efficiently was because to quickly and properly space ties, the team inserted sticks between them that had been pre-cut to the correct distance. All in all, the crew installed 11,513 track feet of rail and constructed 15 turnouts and five new road crossings.

For about 3 ½ weeks in August, Mosaic shut down the mine for maintenance. At that point, PNR RailWorks safely and efficiently managed interaction with people, vehicles and equipment. More than half the 750 people working for 15 contractors occupied the same construction area as did PNR RailWorks. During this shutdown period the crew also had to coordinate road closures around other construction projects in order to install the road crossings.

It was estimated that the greater capacity afforded by the K2 expansion, including the newly finished load-out facility, would take Mosaic’s production to about 7.1 million Mtpy in 2017.

Unique Features

When rain storms created soggy sub-grade, the crew built multiple switch packs off of grade, and thus out of position. Of the 15 switch packs they built, 11 were built out of place. But the crew made efficient use of time while the mine was shut down for maintenance. They became adept at sliding the prebuilt switch packs along the rail to their proper location using a loader and speed swing. They installed them in groups of three or four at a time, connected them and tamped them during the shutdown, picking up time since they didn’t have to get a work block and install only one switch at a time per work block.