Dutch company buys stake in Big Quill

February 21, 2006

Release Date: February 21, 2006
By Murray Lyons
SP Business Editor

A Dutch company has provided a growing resource processing firm in Saskatchewan a better toehold into the European market and some valuable working capital as well.

Big Quill Resources of Wynyard announced that Soda Blast International B.V. of Amsterdam has become an equity partner with Big Quill, buying shares that will amount to a four per cent stake in the company.

According to Roger Nupdal, the executive chair of Big Quill, the money being invested by the Dutch company will allow Big Quill to continue modernizing the equipment and processes used to make potassium sulphate products in various formats.

“This investment reinforces one of the objectives the board established for Big Quill in 2001, to form alliances with companies in the industry that have an established sales force, distribution network and a customer base for specific potassium sulphate products,” he stated in a press release.

In a phone interview, Nupdal says what’s more important to Big Quill’s long-term future than the new equity is a European market outlet that should grow because of the arrangement. Soda Blast has committed to buying additional tonnage from Big Quill in each of the next few years.

Soda Blast is seeking the chemical compound for use in an abrasive cleaning product that can blast off grime from the exterior of buildings with less environmental impact than other chemical abrasives.

Besides its use in cleaning products, potassium sulphate is used as a granular fertilizer in both farm and turf formulations and also has industrial uses in drywall manufacturing and even oil and gas exploration. Nupdal says North America is still the prime destination for most of the potassium sulphate produced by Big Quill at its plant located next to Big Quill Lake, northwest of Wynyard.

Big Quill was once a subsidiary of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan when the latter was a Crown corporation. Spun off to Saskatchewan investors about 15 years ago, Big Quill, which now employs 30 people, has expanded its production seven times in the past 15 years and increased its actual annual output by a factor of 17.

The reason the company’s facilities are located beside its namesake lake is that the lake’s briny water is the natural source of the sodium sulfate feedstock, one of the two main ingredients in potassium sulphate. The other is potassium which is derived from potash supplied by PotashCorp.

That potash supply agreement was the subject of a court case over pricing that was decided in Big Quill’s favour about five years ago. Nupdal says that dispute is long in the past and Big Quill has a long-term “harmonious relationship” with PotashCrop.

The investment by the Dutch company does not dilute the ownership level in Big Quill held by its largest shareholder, the Golden Opportunities Fund, which placed $2.8 million into Big Quill last year to support its modernization.