Rendering of BHP’s proposed potash export facility at Terminal 3 in Hoquiam. Courtesy Port of Grays Harbor.

The Port of Grays Harbor could soon add one more item to the long list of diverse commodities that move through its four deep-water marine terminals located on Washington’s Pacific coast.

In June, port commissioners authorized the organization’s executive director, Gary Nelson, to sign lease options with BHP — an Australia-based producer of major commodities such as coal, copper, iron, and petroleum — related to the company’s proposed potash export operation.

According to port officials, BHP is considering Terminal 3 in Hoquiam to serve as the export facility for BHP’s Jansen Potash Project in Saskatchewan, Canada.

Potash is a potassium-rich chloride used in agricultural fertilizers.

Several conditions must be satisfied as part of a due diligence process and before BHP exercises its lease options, such as completing the necessary State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) review; the City of Hoquiam vacating portions of Paulson Road and Airport Way, which would be located within the proposed project area; and BHP obtaining all federal, state, and local permit approvals for the proposed facility.

“This project is important for Hoquiam, important for the port, and important for our community,” said Port of Grays Harbor Commission President Stan Pinnick. “We are pleased to see this essential step in the process. While BHP choosing Grays Harbor is not a done deal, this is an important milestone in the process, and we look forward to providing support and assistance throughout the option period to help make this project a reality.”

Hoquiam Mayor Jasmine Dickhoff said she was optimistic that BHP would choose Hoquiam for its potash export facility, citing the city’s strategic location and the port’s infrastructure.

“We look forward to the potential investment and job opportunities (the potash export facility) could bring to our community,” Dickhoff added. “The strong partnership between the City and the Port of Grays Harbor has been essential to bring us to this point in the process.”

Last year, the port handled nearly 3 million metric tons of cargo — more than ever before in its 108 years in operation. In addition, 125 ships and barges called on the port in 2018, moving commodities such as automobiles, biodiesel, liquid and dry bulk cargo, soybean meal, and timber.