BHP plans for Hoquiam potash facility withdrawn

Plans for a potash facility within the City of Hoquiam on Port of Grays Harbor property have been withdrawn by the company.

In 2017, BHP first held a public meeting to discuss the proposed potash export facility that would have brought approximately $440 million in investment to the area.

In a release, BHP states that over the past three years, they have engaged with local stakeholders and rightsholders regarding the project, but on Friday anbounces that despite “significant constructive engagement, and previous changes to our environmental permit application to address some requests, local stakeholder groups continue to express concerns and regulators have identified further processes to be completed and resolved for the proposed facility.”

Due to the ongoing setbacks, the company says that they do “not believe we would be able to address these outstanding issues in the planned development timeframe for Stage 1 of the Jansen Potash Project, and have thus withdrawn our permit applications for the proposed facility” here in Grays Harbor.

“BHP respects the rights of local rightsholders and stakeholders, and in the spirit of building strong mutually beneficial relationships we seek to understand their concerns and interests. We are very grateful to all of the local groups who took the time to engage with us during this process and to the local elected leadership and business community for their significant support,” said Giles Hellyer, BHP’s VP Operations for Potash.

The Port of Grays Harbor responded to the news after the announcement.

“While we are incredibly disappointed to lose this significant opportunity not just for our community, but for our state and our nation, I am grateful to BHP for the lessons we have learned about what community engagement and the environmental permitting process can and should look like,” shared Port of Grays Harbor Executive Director Gary Nelson.  “This was our project to lose and unfortunately, as I have said many times in the past, time kills deals.  For rural economic development to thrive, we have to be able to provide prospective investors and employers with clearly defined requirements along with timelines for the path forward.  After five years, we collectively were not able to do that for the BHP project.” 

The Port says that BHP exercised an option to lease with the Port in June 2019 after conducting several years of due diligence on the site including geotechnical, environmental, cultural and other site investigations pertinent to their proposed project.    

“Our rail served, deep-water marine-industrial sites remain a major asset for economic growth and the Port of Grays Harbor will continue to pursue opportunities to attract partners wanting to utilize our infrastructure and willing to invest in and be a partner in our community,” stated Port of Grays Harbor Commission President Stan Pinnick.  “We will also look to work with our tribal leaders and state and federal elected officials to help improve the current permitting processes so that businesses like BHP, and REG and Contanda before them, don’t have to waste multiple years and millions of dollars on a process that has no end.”

 “My predecessor on the Commission, Chuck Caldwell, impressed upon me what a great opportunity the BHP potash export facility was for Grays Harbor.  In my time on the Commission I have confirmed that belief.  It would have been a game changer, not only for our community, but also at the state and national level.  As Director Nelson told me early on, ‘Don’t let the ups and downs of the job overwhelm you. Stay focused on the big picture and the unique attributes the Harbor has to offer prospective investors.’  This announcement is testing my internal fortitude to stay focused and positive,” shared Commissioner Phil Papac. 

 “In my short time on the Port Commission, but lifetime of business experience, it was clear that BHP was a top-notch partner, both professionally and financially.  This is a real miss for our community, but as we have shown so many times before, we are resilient,” stated Commissioner Tom Quigg. 

BHP says that despite the decision to withdraw from Hoquiam, they continue to progress permitting at DP World Fraser Surrey in British Columbia, Canada, as well as investigating other terminals on the north west coast of North America.