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Saskatchewan Premier visits the U.K. to heal wounds

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall speaks to an economic luncheon in Toronto on Oct. 29, 2010.

MARK BLINCH/REUTERS

Premier Brad Wall captivated Canadians with his nationalist fight last fall to keep Saskatchewan's largest potash player out of foreign hands.

Four months later, the Premier faces a much tougher audience as he tries to convince Britain's brusque business community to invest in his province despite the potash protectionist move. A visit with the Queen could also be on the agenda.

Mr. Wall is expected to begin a five-day visit to London on Wednesday that includes his first face-to-face meeting with BHP Billiton Ltd. executives since he led the campaign to block the Australian miner's $38.6-billion (U.S.) bid for Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan Inc.

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The trip is part of the Premier's plan to drum up business in Saskatchewan amid concerns his stance on the potash deal would drive away foreign investment.

"We have always wanted to let BHP know how welcome they are," Mr. Wall told reporters in Saskatoon on Tuesday.

Saskatchewan is hoping to heal wounds with BHP after the demise of its deal for Potash Corp. The province is especially keen on BHP's plans to build the proposed $12-billion Jansen mine, which would be the first new potash operation in the province in 40 years.

"We haven't had talk of a new mine or one being built since Elvis was not only still alive, but still thin. It has been a long time," Mr. Wall said.

The Premier is also expected to hold meetings with representatives from Rio Tinto, Shell, Rolls-Royce, Siemens and EDF, the largest nuclear operator in the United Kingdom.

The U.K. is the third largest investor in Saskatchewan, according to the province.

"This trip will be a timely opportunity to remind those in London's investment community of the tremendous potential presented by Saskatchewan," Mr. Wall said.

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A meeting with the Queen is "tentative," Mr. Wall said. "If it happens, it will be a great honour."

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