News from Turtle Mountain by Doyle Piwniuk


I have always called myself a proud Western Manitoban who has lived most of my time along the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border. I was born and raised in the Russell/Asessippi area of Manitoba where I lived for the first twenty years, then spent seven years in Winnipeg, then purchased an Insurance Agency in Virden and lived there for over 30 years. You always have a special spot in your heart where you were born and raised. Russell and Western Manitoba have always been home to me, especially after weeks in Winnipeg during our Legislative Session in the fall and spring, it is nice to travel west of the city.

Growing up on a dairy farm in the Dropmore/Shellmouth area was very hard work with a huge commitment to milk the cows twice a day and do a lot of other farm chores. My dad, Fred, first started to work in the construction industry while building up the farm inventory and to help pay for the land he purchased from my grandfather. Some of the construction projects that he worked on included the Shellmouth Dam, many bridges in the region, and the potash mines in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan. When the potash mine was completed, the company offered him a fulltime job at the new mine. He declined the offer because he was determined to build up the dairy farm that he always dreamed about.

While growing up on the farm, my dad always had an interest in the potash mining industry, and his brother-in-law and two of his nephews worked in the potash mine in Esterhazy. His son, my brother Kelly, and his two nieces are currently working at the mine there.

One day, when my dad and I were driving 10 miles south of the farm, he indicated that the Manitoba Government was drilling sample holes in the Harrowby area for a potential potash mine. He always wanted to see a new mine in Manitoba but, unfortunately, he was never to see that happen. He passed away from cancer in 2005. He was not alone in his dreams, though. Since Sterling Lyon, Manitoba premiers have talked about creating a new mine in the Russell area, but nothing happened until our first female Premier, Heather Stefanson, made it happen. She made the announcement in 2022 at an international mining conference in Toronto.

When I first became the MLA for Arthur-Virden in 2014 and later when we took over government in 2016, I had the opportunity to meet with Daymon Guillas at one of a mutual friend’s cabin in the Shell Valley to talk about the dream that Daymon, along with a few other investors, had to build the first potash mine west of Russell in at the old town site of Harrowby.

Daymon filled me in on all the work he and his team had done before we took government. Daymon and his team encountered huge challenges trying to get the mining department of the provincial government to allow his company, Potash and Agri Development Corporation of Manitoba (PADCOM), to give them the opportunity to test drill the current site for the first potash solution mining in Manitoba. After years of trying, in the fall of 2021 the provincial government finally gave them a license to drill in the area where they had a core sample of potash from back when the provincial government first drilled for test sites in the 1980s. In the winter of 2022, they were successful in reaching the potash vein which is approximately three feet wide.

Now PADCOM is set to be the world’s lowest carbon-footprint potash mine, and expects to produce 250,000 tonnes of potash per year, thanks to Manitoba Hydro’s green energy that will be used to power the mine. The mine uses a selective solution mining process in which a heated mixture of water and salt is injected underground to dissolve the potash deposits. The mixture is then pumped to the surface and a process will be put through a cooling down to create the crystallization for pure white potash.

Gambler First Nation near the mine south of Harrowby is a 20 per cent equity partner in PADCOM, which shows how economic reconciliation starts with projects such as this first potash mine in Manitoba. According to Gambler First Nation Chief David LeDoux the development of the mine has been a 15-year-long process. Hopefully now projects such as PADCOM will take a lot less time to get started especially where there is partnership with first nation communities across this province.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend Daymon Guillas, Chief LeDoux, and their team of PADCOM for their determination, hard work and vision in getting this first Potash up and running in the Russell area. This is going to create a large economic development opportunity in the western region of Manitoba.

Doyle Piwniuk is the MLA for Turtle Mountain. His column will help promote knowledge and understanding about this amazing part of our province.