Near the shores of Jansen Lake, in a rural area 140 kilometres east of Saskatoon, a colossal underground potash mine is set to begin production in 2026. Known as the Jansen Project, the mine is owned by BHP and, when operational, will be the world’s largest potash mine, extracting from deposits almost 1 kilometre below the earth’s surface.
From 2010 to 2023, we supported the project’s environmental assessment process, providing noise prediction, impact assessment, and potential mitigation review services. This involved addressing both construction and operations noise levels for people living nearby, and identifying where noise mitigation would be necessary according to provincial guidelines.
In 2010, we built a 3-D computer model and used it to analyze a worst-case construction scenario and two operational noise scenarios. The model predictions revealed that some nearby residences, in both operations scenarios, would experience noise levels above those outlined in the criteria. Construction noise, however, did not exceed thresholds in the model.
We contributed to the project over the next 10 years, updating our model to account for changes to the mine’s operations plan. These updates included revising sound emission inputs for project noise sources (stacks, fans, mobile equipment, etc.) and analyzing more potential operations scenarios for BHP through the project’s lead consultant, ERM. In addition, we highlighted which residences experienced criteria-exceeding noise levels in the model.
Further updates to the model included new rail alignments, along with predictions about how train noise could affect nearby residents. These updates incorporated information about expected train size, speed, and frequency from the Jansen Project’s latest operations plan.
With every change, we calculated sound contours to make it easy to visualize how these changes would affect people living in the area. Notably, we assessed the potential for sleep disturbance from train noise. The predictions showed that, while the noise levels at some receivers would increase, no new receivers would experience criteria-exceeding noise. Our study also showed that one receiver that was over the threshold in the previous scenarios, would now fall under the threshold based on the realignment. In regard to nighttime train noise, the model showed that sleep disturbance due to rail noise would be unlikely.
Later updates for new operations stages and revised specs for noise sources and mitigation showed that project noise at receivers decreased from the 2010 iteration of the project. We noted the uncertainty of noise predictions for different types of sources.
By accurately assessing noise levels for the project’s construction and operations phases, and updating our acoustical model as the project design progressed, we supported this ambitious mining project, which, once operational, will have a lifespan of approximately 70 years.
We added our expertise to the project, and helped the project owner gain a clearer picture of how much noise the project will create, how that noise could affect people living in the area, and what feasible options were available to manage noise levels. With these insights, the owner was able to prepare a management plan and mitigation to minimize the potential impacts of project-related noise.
Photo by BHP