As the world’s population grows the need for potash rises. Only a few companies in Canada have really been able to capitalize on this need – one of them, Athabasca Potash Inc. (API: TSX), saw the need early and has been actively exploring ever since. Athabasca currently holds 23 potash exploration permits on about 1,700,000 acres in Saskatchewan. The company is Saskatchewan-based, and actively engaged in progressing the company’s principal potash project, the Burr Project.
The Burr Project is 107 kilometres east of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The company is happy to report that the geological exploration has been completed on the Burr Project, a sign of expedient progress, says Kevan Bender, Vice-President Communications and Investor Relations. The company completed its environmental research last year.
“In the spring of 2008, we initiated an environmental baseline study, which included assessing factors of data like the region’s soil, wildlife, surface hydrology, and climate. We also engaged in community consultation. We’re very happy with our progress thus far” he says. Bender adds that the company has identified a shaft location for a potential potash mine, and API has secured in excess of 3,000 acres for the potential mine site already.
The company recently has engaged SNC-Lavalin to provide engineering services, along with other consultants, for API’s prefeasibility study.
Dawn Zhou is the Founder, President, CEO and Director of Athabasca Potash. Zhou has an extensive history in minerals, and in recent years she has been actively engaged in the exploration of Saskatchewan potash and oil resources. In 2006 she founded API, and did so with her own resources – making her stake in the company unique. Zhou says that the decision to create a potash company came from the amazing opportunity back in 2005, when potash exploration was basically unheard of in Saskatchewan, even though it had 50 per cent of the world’s potash resource. “Globally, it’s a unique situation for such an important resource,” she says. “About 75 per cent of the world’s potash supply is controlled by only a few companies. Yet the demand for potash is increasing. Essentially, we mine for potash because of the unique demand situation that the world faces today. The areas we supply to, like Latin America, India or China, have no or little potash resources. Because of this demand situation and few good minable locations, I knew when we started that we would be able to weather the market ups and downs”.
Zhou expects that the company’s pre-feasibility study will be completed in the third quarter of 2009.
She is confident in the company’s current and future value potential: “The world needs more potash. Potash is a fertilizer for food, and our population is not going to stop growing.”
If potash buyers are financing the project, then our risk is much lower because we don`t have to acquire financing during these times of global uncertainty for financing large projects.
Working with local communities
The management team at API sees the company’s development as a tremendous opportunity – not just for themselves, but for Saskatchewan and Canada on the whole. “There is such an amazing opportunity for Saskatchewan to compete in a global market” Zhou explains. “Our projects create employment opportunities not only for local rural communities but also for the Aboriginal communities of Saskatchewan.”
As part of the company’s impact studies, API has conducted public open houses for local communities, and the response has been very positive thus far, Zhou says. “So far we have been very lucky, we have been working with local communities all the way along and they have been part of the whole process. Public consultations have been done, and the general consensus has been great.” “The Burr project is a big one, and as we want to share the opportunity it brings with everyone, we also need everyone’s support to get it done. That’s why we’ve involved our communities in our progress.”
Communicating with shareholders
Part of API’s commitment to local communities and their shareholders alike is to be upfront and transparent. Bender says “we have been quite clear with our communications to shareholders and the general public. For the next six months our plans are pretty clear”.
“We’re continually updating our results” he continues, adding “basically, what we say is what we do”.
Although API is currently focused on the Burr Project, they have 22 other properties in their name and are looking to actively explore those areas in the future.
Zhou and Bender both agree that although Athabasca Potash operates with a lean management team, the team has a vision that will carry the company through the ups and downs of the market. API continues to look for ways to address the need of developing countries, and the world, for potash. To learn more about the company, visit www.athabascapotash.ca.