Canada's Nutrien to temporarily shut its largest potash mine due to rail strike

(Reuters) - Canada’s Nutrien Ltd, the world’s biggest fertilizer company by capacity, said on Monday it would temporarily shut its largest potash mine due to a railway strike.

The strike by some 3,200 unionized employees at Canadian National Railway Co was in its seventh day, leaving 35 vessels waiting on Canada’s West Coast.

Nutrien and Mosaic Co export potash from a terminal on the coast through their jointly owned logistics company, Canpotex Ltd.

Nutrien said in a statement it would shut its Rocanville, Saskatchewan mine for two weeks starting Dec. 2. The mine is capable of producing 5.4 million tonnes this year.

“It is extremely disappointing that in a year when the agricultural sector has been severely impacted by poor weather and trade disputes, the CN strike will add further hardship to the Canadian agriculture industry,” Nutrien Chief Executive Chuck Magro said.

Separately, Canpotex spokeswoman Natashia Stinka said the company was concerned about any disruption to its shipments as it relies heavily on CN Rail.

Nutrien’s planned curtailment comes as the global potash market is soft, and is positive for rivals Mosaic and K+S AG, but hurts Canada’s reputation as a fertilizer supplier, said Scotiabank analyst Ben Isaacson, in a note.

Isaacson said it was “highly likely” Mosaic will curtail output at its 5.3 million tonne mine at Esterhazy, Saskatchewan.

Ben Pratt, a Mosaic spokesman, said while the CN strike was affecting the company, its use of Canadian Pacific Railway allowed it to keep moving potash.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Chris Reese and Tom Brown