May 132011

By Linda Kor–

The potential for potash mining in the Holbrook Basin is receiving attention across the globe through articles written in international business publications. With international interest being directed toward the Holbrook Basin, people may wonder what potash’s importance is as a commodity.

Potash is the common name for potassium bearing salts found in the ash in your fireplace (thus the name), but it is also formed from the slow evaporation of water in an ancient ocean. The latter can produce massive amounts of potash such as what has been discovered in the basin.

Potash contains high amounts of essential plant nutrients, and is widely used for major crops like corn and wheat, creating more arable land and producing more edible food per acre. It also protects crops against disease and pests, resulting in larger, more nutritious crops.

According to the Arizona Geological Society, the total U.S. value of potash production in 2010 was $540 million. Approximately 80 percent of the potash used in the U.S. in 2010 was imported, mostly from Canada, followed by Belarus and Russia.

Drilling reports done by the Arkla and Duvall companies in the 1960s and 1970s estimated that the basin holds anywhere from 700 million to 2.2 billion tons of potash at approximately 700 to 1,200 feet below the surface at a thickness of approximately 40 feet. The depth is significant because drilling would be very shallow compared to other operations where depths range from 3,000 to 5,000 feet below the surface.

While several mining companies have been issued permits for the basin, one company, Passport Potash, has provided continual updates on its progress and has stated that mining in the basin could have 100-year lifespan and result in hundreds of high paying jobs for the region.

Reporting on recent developments, Passport President Joshua Bleak stated, “We are very pleased with the progress of our exploration program and to have reached the point at which core samples have been sent in for analysis. With three rigs operating simultaneously on our land holdings, we expect to meet or exceed our target date for completion of the current phase of exploration and the release of (the) technical report.”

Passport has acquired a strategic position in the Holbrook Basin with land holdings encompassing more than 86,000 acres. In addition, Passport has a cooperative agreement with the Hopi Tribe, allowing the company to access and conduct certain exploration activities on an additional 12,853 acres of privately held Hopi land (not reservation land) while allowing the tribe to share in the study results.

Other companies noted in the area include HNZ Potash, LLC, with a reported land position of 74,000 acres, and American West Potash, with a land position of approximately 32,000 acres.