By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba, June 22 (Reuters) – Canadian potash producer Nutrien is not focused on any potential collaboration with miner BHP Group, a senior Nutrien executive said on Tuesday in the company's first public comments about reports of possible cooperation.
BHP has for years been constructing a potash mine at Jansen, Saskatchewan, near Nutrien's six mines in the Canadian province. BHP expects to present its board with a decision in a few months on whether to complete the project.
Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper 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 cooperation 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 $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. (Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg Editing by Marguerita Choy)