Did you know that Canada is the largest producer and exporter of potash in the world?! Canada also is home to the second largest global potash reserves, with 1.2 billion tonnes - or about one fifth of the world’s supply. Potash is just one of the natural resources that Canada has in abundance; as Canadians we are blessed to have access to such a vast wealth of natural resources!
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). Potash is typically produced to make potassium chloride (KCl), about 95 per cent of which is used in fertilizers that help plants grow by improving overall health, root strength, disease resistance, water retention, and yield rates as an end result.
Where is Potash Found in Canada?
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 trapping precious minerals in the sea floor. These deposits are part of the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin which is where you’ll find the oil sands and several other vast reserves of different natural resources in Canada.
Saskatchewan is home to the vast majority of potash in Canada. New Brunswick has one potash mine, but it is much smaller in scale than those in the west. Saskatchewan’s 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 are known for their high-grade potash and are separated by layers of salt.
Saskatchewan’s northern deposits are located about 1,000 metres below 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 allow extraction and production of this “hybrid” layer.
History of Potash in Canada
1767 - As early as the 1760s, exports of potash made from wood ashes began from Canada.
1865 – A century later, in the mid 1860s, exports of potash reached nearly 44,000 barrels
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 potash 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
Today, Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter of potash and exports more than 95 per cent of production to over 50 countries. The United States, Brazil, Indonesia, India and China are Canada’s top buyers.
Mosaic K1 Potash Mine in Saskatchewan
What are the Uses of Potash?
As previously mentioned, about 95 per cent of potash is used for fertilizer. The rest is used in various products including, but not limited to:
- Animal feed
- Human food products
- Water softeners
- Deicer (snow and ice melters)
- Glass manufacturing
- 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!
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