Potash partnership with BHP ‘not our focus,’ Nutrien executive says

Prices surging on rising demand, Belarus sanctions

(DarcyMaulsby/iStock/Getty Images)

Winnipeg | Reuters — Canadian potash producer Nutrien is not focused on any potential collaboration with miner BHP Group, a senior Nutrien executive said Tuesday in the company’s first public comments about reports of possible co-operation.

BHP has for years been constructing a potash mine at Jansen, Sask., near Nutrien’s six mines in the province. BHP expects to present its board with a decision in a few months on whether to complete the project.

The Globe and Mail reported in May that BHP and Nutrien were negotiating a joint venture that would see Nutrien take control of the Jansen mine, while Bloomberg reported the companies discussed various partnership options. Both cited unnamed sources.

“Today it’s not our focus,” said Nutrien executive vice-president of potash Ken Seitz, in an interview, asked about potential for co-operation with BHP.

“I’ll just say that everything you’ve seen is speculative and inaccurate.”

BHP, the world’s biggest miner, has estimated Jansen would cost up to US$5.7 billion in its first phase. Potash offers BHP diversification from copper and iron ore into agricultural markets. Farmers spread the crop nutrient to boost yields.

Potash prices are surging, due to rising demand and recent European Union (EU) sanctions on Belarus, a major producer. Nutrien on Monday said it would boost potash output this year to take advantage.

Seitz said sanctions could hamper seaborne exports by Belaruskali, Belarus’ state-owned potash company, as it depends on the Klapeida port in EU member Lithuania.

“That would be the big one, waiting to see whether as part of the sanctions, that trade route would be closed off,” he said.

Nutrien could also benefit if sales by Russian potash producer Uralkali replace Belaruskali shipments to some markets and short others, like Brazil, Seitz said.

— Rod Nickel is a Reuters commodities correspondent in Winnipeg.

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