Intrepid Potash

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Potash evaporation ponds at the Intrepid mine near Moab, Utah, 2012. Colorado River at right of frame.

Intrepid Potash, Inc. (NYSEIPI), based in Denver, Colorado, is the largest producer of potassium chloride, also known as muriate of potash, in the United States.[1] It owns three mines, all in the Western U.S., near the cities of Carlsbad, New Mexico, Moab, Utah, and Wendover, Utah.[2]

Mines[edit]

Carlsbad[edit]

There are 3 sites approximately 30 miles (48 km) East of Carlsbad, NM. The East facility, produces sylvite and langbeinite potash, and is capable of fully processing its ore to the storage or shipment stage. The West facility produces mainly traditional potash, which is shipped by truck to be processed at the North facility for final storage or shipping.

Moab[edit]

Intrepid Potash evaporation pond, Moab, 2014. Blue dye is added to speed evaporation.

The Moab or Cane Creek potash mine (38°31′20″N 109°39′32″W / 38.5222049°N 109.6590062°W / 38.5222049; -109.6590062) is located along the right (northwest) bank of the Colorado River, about 20 miles (30 km) west of Moab, Utah,[3] at the south end of State Route 279 and the Union Pacific Railroad. The location is known as Potash on U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) topographic maps, and is east of Dead Horse Point State Park and Canyonlands National Park.[4] According to USGS reports, the Paradox Basin contains up to 2.0 billion tons (1.8 billion metric tonnes) of potash, with the primary mine being the one at Cane Creek.[5]

The plant was built by the Texas Gulf Sulphur Company in the early 1960s,[6] opening in 1963 as a conventional underground mine.[7] Later that year, an explosion trapped 25 miners,[8] of whom only seven were able to survive, by building a barricade to trap fresh air.[9] In 1970, operations were changed to a system that combines solution mining and solar evaporation. River water is pumped into the mine and dissolves the potash, after which the brine solution is pumped to evaporation ponds.[3] Intrepid bought the mine in 2000[10] from the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan,[11] which had bought Texas Gulf in 1995.[12]

Wendover[edit]

The Wendover potash mine is located about 120 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah and has been actively used for potash production for over 65 years. Potash production from natural occurring brines at the Wendover facility dates back to World War I. During the period from 1920 to 1936, a number of unsuccessful attempts were made to commercially produce potash. By 1939, a successful commercial potash operation was achieved and continues today.

This plant siphons off brine from the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats during the winter when the bed is covered in brine. This has led to the disappearance of the flats, that is the thick salt layer that normally covers the area. This is destroying its utility as a popular race bed and surface for setting ground speed records, where long, uniform flat surfaces are required. This has led to an outcry from the fans who use it. In an effort to reverse this loss, Intrepid has voluntarily been pumping processed brine back to the flats. Activists are confident this will reverse the damage, but are wary because the replenishment is voluntary and are worried what may happen if ownership of the mine changes hands, so are working on legislation to make the brine replenishment mandatory.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ RTT News, Intrepid Potash Q1 profit surges on strong potash pricing, demand, June 2, 2008
  2. ^ Intrepid Potash: Mine Site Locations, accessed June 2008
  3. ^ a b Intrepid Potash: Moab, Utah, accessed June 2008
  4. ^ Google Maps street maps and USGS topographic maps, accessed June 2008 via ACME Mapper
  5. ^ CNN Marketwire, Utah Uranium Corp. Proposes Name Change Reflecting New Opportunities (press release from Utah Uranium Corporation), June 25, 2008
  6. ^ New York Times, Texas Gulf Sulphur Plans Big Utah Potash Project, September 27, 1960, p. 49
  7. ^ Los Angeles Times, Potash Mine to Open in Utah, April 28, 1963, p. H7
  8. ^ New York Times, Mine Blast Traps 25 at 2,700 Feet, August 28, 1963, p. 1
  9. ^ Time Magazine, Start of a Legend?, September 6, 1963
  10. ^ Jason P. Montoya, Carlsbad Current-Argus, Mine gets top safety award, December 2, 2003
  11. ^ Salt Lake Tribune, State of the State, March 1, 2000, p. D3
  12. ^ Handbook of Texas Online, Texasgulf, accessed June 2008
  13. ^ Flat out: End of the road for Utah's speed plains from The Independent