Potash in the Permian Basin of New Mexico

By T. C. Turner, Managing Partner, Turner Energy Law

Potash is an abundant source for potassium and related salts, and is an essential nutrient for food crops (think fertilizer). Its name is derived from the historical method of production that involved leaching wood ash in large pots and scraping the white residue from the side of the pot. As a consequence, potash is pronounced pot-ash, and not poe-tash, as I initially suspected.

As is well known, West Texas and South Eastern New Mexico were once part of a vast shallow sea. As the sea evaporated, large deposits of salt and potash remained. The Carlsbad Mining District in New Mexico consequently contains one of the richest potash deposits in the world with the purest potash deposit, close to 80% pure, located in Lea County, New Mexico.

Potash mining in Southeastern New Mexico is big business as the area accounts for 75% of all U. S. Production. The Bureau of Land Management reports total sales volume for 2015 in New Mexico in excess of 1.7 million tons, with a total value of over $500 million, and over $21.7 million in royalties paid to the BLM. The 2015 Annual Report of the New Mexico State Land Office reports over $4.5 million in potash royalties were paid to the state.

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