Potash in Canada: Everything You Need to Know

Potash in Canada - Facts, Statistics and History

Did you know that Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash? The Land of Maple Syrup is also home to the largest global potash reserves, with 1.1 billion tonnes - or about 20 per cent of the world's supply!

Potash is just one of many natural resources Canada has in abundance, which Canadians have been so blessed to benefit from for centuries. The potash sector has been around for hundreds of years, longer than the country itself!

But many ask, what is potash anyway, and what is the importance of this raw resource? Below, you will find all you need to know about Canadian potash. Also see:

Canadian Potash: Quick Facts

Canada is the top producer and exporter of potash in the world

• Canada is the largest producer of potash in the world, with an estimated 22.5 million tonnes of production in 2021 [5]

• Canada is also the largest potash exporter, exporting 21.6 million tonnes in 2021 and accounting for 38% of global exporters [5]

• Canada is home to the world's largest reserves at 1.1 billion tonnes, about 20% of global supply [5]

• Canada exported 96% of its potash production in 2021, underpinning food security around the world [5]

• Potash is primarily used (>95%) to produce fertilizers to support plant growth [5]

• Potash is the third-largest commodity shipped within Canada by rail [4]

• Canada is home to vast untapped reserves of potash, recoverable only with technologies that do not yet exist

What is Potash?

Potash is a common name for an alkaline potassium compound made up of a group of minerals and chemicals containing potassium (K on the periodic table) [5].

Potash is processed to make potassium chloride (KCl), about 95 per cent of which is used to produce fertilizers that help plants grow by improving overall health, root strength, disease resistance, water retention, and yield rates [1].

In other words, potash underpins food security for billions of people around the world. Like natural gas, it is an essential component in producing fertilizers, which support more than half of the world's population.

Where is Potash Found in Canada?

Saskatchewan Potash Deposits - Mines and Mining Methods Map

Saskatchewan Potash Deposits - Carrie Cockburn & John Sipinski

Canada's underground potash deposits formed some 400 million years ago as an ancient inland sea evaporated, leaving behind layers of common salts that trapped precious minerals in the seafloor. These deposits are part of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB), which is also home to the oil sands and several other vast reserves of different natural resources Canada is blessed with.

Saskatchewan is home to the vast majority of potash in Canada; deposits are found near Alberta to the west of Saskatoon and span to the southeast corner of the province in three major layers called the Esterhazy, Belle Plaine and Patience Lake Member. Each of these layers is known for its high-grade potash and is separated from one another by layers of salt.

Saskatchewan's northern potash deposits are about 1,000 metres below the surface and are extracted using conventional mining techniques. To the south, deposits are anywhere from 1,500 to 2,400 metres deep and are mined using solution techniques.

These northern and southern deposits are separated by a "hybrid" deposit of potash, which is currently uneconomical to produce using contemporary mining techniques. New technologies are required to extract and produce this "hybrid" layer. Eventually, technology will open up even more Canadian potash to the world.

Today, Saskatchewan accounts for approximately 30 per cent of global potash production, making the province indispensable in food supply chains [2].

New Brunswick has one potash mine, but it is much smaller in scale than those in the west [3].

History of Potash in Canada

potash jobs saskatchewan jansen mine

1767 - As early as the 1760s, Canada began exporting potash made from wood ashes

1865 – A century later, in the mid-1860s, exports of potash reached nearly 44,000 barrels per annum

1871 – By 1871, approximately 519 asheries were in operation across the country

1943 – During the 1940s, exploratory drilling for crude oil led to the discovery of significant potash reserves in Saskatchewan

1951 – By the early 1950s, active exploration for the mineral commenced

1958 – the Potash Company of America became the first potash producer in Canada with a contract to develop underground reserves in the Patience Lake region of Saskatchewan

1964 – The world's first solution mine is opened near Regina by Kalium Chemicals Ltd, with a depth of nearly 1,600 metres

1960-1985 – Potash mine development in Canada occurs mostly in Saskatchewan

1980s – New Brunswick sees a handful of potash mines begin operations

1990s – Several integral expansions during the 1970s and 80s makes Canada a global leader in potash production

1996 – Sylvite, a.k.a. potash rock, was named Saskatchewan's official mineral.

Today, Canada is the world's largest producer and exporter of potash, exporting most of its production to over 50 countries. Canada's top buyers are the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, India and China [6].

What is Potash Used For?

Potash in Canada facts - largest global producer

While most potash is for fertilizer, the rest is used in various products including (but not limited to):

  • Animal feed
  • Human food products
  • Soaps
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Detergents
  • Water softeners
  • De-icer (snow and ice melters)
  • Glass manufacturing
  • Fireworks
  • Matches
  • Aluminum recycling

Fertilizer has been called one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, and without it about half of the world's current population would not be alive [7]!

Join Us Today!

potash jobs jansen mine indigenous peoples

Canada's potash mining sector is critical to food security around the world. Without it, the world would be a much hungrier place. Additionally, our mining sector's adherence to stringent regulatory frameworks like the Mining Association of Canada's Towards Sustainable Mining Initiative makes us an ideal operator and supplier of these resources anywhere in the world.

We invite you to join us and hundreds of thousands of fellow Canadians on X, Instagram and YouTube to learn more about the positive influence resources have on our daily lives. Learn more about why Canada should be a global supplier of choice for oil, natural gas, minerals, metals, forest products, agricultural products, and everything in between.

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1 - https://feeco.com/7-granulated-potash/

2 - https://www.saskatchewan.ca/government/news-and-media/2022/june/22/saskatchewan-potash-producers-ramp-up-production#:~:text=Saskatchewan%20is%20the%20largest%20potash,cent%20of%20global%20potash%20production.

3 - https://www2.gnb.ca/content/gnb/en/departments/erd/energy/content/minerals/content/EDPotash.html

4 - https://cwf.ca/research/publications/our-west-potash-production-on-the-prairies-saskatchewans-potash-of-gold/

5 - https://natural-resources.canada.ca/our-natural-resources/minerals-mining/minerals-metals-facts/potash-facts/20521

6 - https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/potash

7 - https://www.bbc.com/news/business-38305504

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