No cutbacks at Aurora plant

Published 4:03 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

By Staff
Faltering fertilizermarket promptscutbacks elsewhere
Staff Writer
A move by PCS Phosphate’s parent company to cut production of potash won’t affect local jobs, company officials said Monday.
Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan plans to cut about two million metric tons of potash production in the coming year, said Bill Johnson, the company’s director of public affairs.
PCS-Phosphate’s facility in Aurora doesn’t make potash and won’t be affected by the cut back, said Michelle Vaught, spokeswoman for the plant-and-mine complex.
Nitrogen-, potassium- and phosphate-based fertilizers are all facing weakening markets because of the world economic situation, said Tom Pasztor, a Potash Corporation spokesman, on Monday.
He said the Aurora facility is unaffected because manpower is being shifted from fertilizer production to phosphate production for industrial and food uses.
A plant in White Springs, Fla., is the other large phosphate-production facility for the company, he said.
In addition, the company has moved forward maintenance shutdowns at nitrogen-fixing plants on Trinidad, an island in the Caribbean. The plants will close briefly in rotation.
Company officials said they don’t expect the softening market — which had spiked in recent months, according to company reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — to last forever.
He said that when demand returns, capacity will be boosted.
Johnson said the potash slowdown is necessary because the company only wants to produce as much fertilizer that will meet immediate demand. He also cited the difficulty of warehousing the bulky product, a potassium-rich mineral that is mined from deep in ground, cleaned and sorted by size before being shipped to farmers.
He said the two-metric-ton reduction is “very significant” but that it is difficult to turn the amount of the reduction into a percentage of total output because Potash Corporation recently expanded production capabilities after facing a labor stoppage, which cut actual production.
In 2007, before the expansions and the labor stoppage, the company produced less than 10 million metric tons of potash, he said.