Wednesday, July 31, 2013

20 potash core holes permitted in Holbrook basin

The Arizona Oil & Gas Conservation Commission approved permits for 20 exploratory core holes for American West Potash in the Holbrook basin potash deposit.  The permits are required because the core holes penetrate geologic zones that have the potential to hold oil or gas.  [Right, AWP lands in purple checkerboard.  Petrified Forest National Park federal lands in yellow.]

The permits were filed prior  to yesterday's stunning news about the apparent collapse of the two international potash cartels.  The industry is still analyzing the implications.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

What will turmoil in potash industry mean for Arizona?

The world's potash industry imploded today as Russia's Uralkali withdrew from the Belarus Potash Corporation one of two global potash cartels that control about 70% of the world's potash production.  Stock prices of the companies in the other  joint venture, North American-based Cantopex, fell around 25% on the news, due to fears that Uralkali, one of the lowest cost producers in the world would drive down prices.  News reports indicated that it would cause a noticeable drop in the GDP of Canada.

Speculation immediately turned to the potential negative impacts on the many potash projects underway around the world, including those in Arizona.

David Salisbury, Chairman of Passport Potash, one of three companies actively exploring the Holbrook basin of eastern Arizona, was interviewed on BNN (Business News Network) today [right] and offered a more positive assessment of the situation. David noted that Passport would still be economic at the new world price of $300 per ton, or possibly even lower, that the company has one of the lowest capitalization costs of any new mine with a major market in the US that they are well positioned to service, that the Russian action might be primarily a ploy in high stakes negotiations over potash contracts, and that the Passport mine wouldn't come into production until 2018, giving time for lots of developments to change the markets.

I tend to agree with his assessments.  In addition, there are many more projects proposed around the world than demand requires.  So, if the higher cost operations fall by the wayside, it could make the Holbrook basin more competitive.  

The situation is complex and still unfolding.The outcome is not foregone.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Solar project uses 120,000 metric tons of molten salt

 We were surprised at first to read that the giant Abengoa Solana solar energy project had to import 120,000 metric tons of molten salt from Chile.  After all, Arizona has numerous massive salt deposits some of which are being actively mined.   But then we learned that the molten salt mixes for thermal storage are typically 60% sodium nitrate and 40% potassium nitrate.   The mixtures vary and and also include calcium nitrates.

The 280-megawatt, 3 square mile, $2 billion project will use the molten salt as a heat storage sink that will allow electricity to be generated for as long as 6 hours after the sun sets, according to a report in the Arizona [Phoenix] Republic.   [Right, diagram of plant design.  Credit, US Dept. Energy]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Potash company starts air quality permit process

Apache Junction-based Passport Potash recently announced that it completed a "pre-application meeting with the Air Quality Division of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) regarding the air quality control permit for its Holbrook Basin potash project.  In the meeting the necessary components of the application submittal for the Permit were identified." [Right, recent exploration core holes in the Holbrook potash deposit.  Credit, AZ Oil & Gas Conservation Commission]

The company noted that over the last several weeks they hired a new Chief Operating Officer, acquired additional lands, applied for mineral leases with the state of Arizona, and renegotiated and extended lease payments on private ranch lands out to June 2015.

These announcements in addition to their recently released Preliminary Economic Assessment,

The company plans to release it pre-feasibility assessment by the end of Q1 2014.

The proposed underground mine could cost nearly $2 billion to construct and produce up to 2.5 million tons of potash per year, primarily for use as fertilizer.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Arizona 4th in abandoned mine deaths

Arizona is tied for 4th place with 11 deaths in abandoned mines during the period 2001-2012, according to an analysis on    During that time 247 people died nationwide, with the most deaths, 24, occurring in Ohio.

 Most deaths are from drowning, especially in Eastern and Midwest quarries, followed by ATVs and falls, which are more common in the West, including in Arizona.  

The Arizona State Mine Inspector manages Arizona's abandoned mines program.

Friday, July 26, 2013

New USGS geologic map of Winslow 30' x 60' quad published

The USGS has published the geologic map of the Winslow 30'x 60' quadrangle in northeast Arizona. The map is one of many completed by George Billingsley and colleagues that we've been looking forward to seeing released.  [Right, cross section through Hopi Buttes.  From the report]

Ref: Billingsley, G.H., Block, D., and Hiza Redsteer, M., 2013, Geologic map of the Winslow 30′
x 60′ quadrangle, Coconino and Navajo Counties, northern Arizona: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Map 3247, pamphlet 25 p., 3 sheets, scale 1:50,000, available at

Opening for Director of USGS National Minerals Information Center

The USGS is seeking applicants for Director of the Survey's National Minerals Information Center.  

Ione L Taylor,  USGS Associate Director for Energy and Minerals, and Environmental Health says:

NMIC is a key leadership position for the minerals information function supported through the USGS Mineral Resources Program (MRP).  This function collects, analyzes, and disseminates data that document production and consumption for about 100 mineral commodities, both domestically and internationally for 180 countries. NMIC produces timely domestic and international production and consumption information and specialized materials flow and recycling studies.  NMIC produces high demand monthly, quarterly, and annual mineral information products such as the Nonmetallic Mineral Products Industry Indexes, the Metal Industry Indicators, the Mineral Industry Survey, the Minerals Yearbook, and the Mineral Commodity Summaries.  MRP mineral economists and minerals information specialists provide minerals information on a regular basis to other Federal agencies, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Department of Defense, and the Federal Reserve Board (FRB).

ATL-2013-0503 (Open to all US Citizens)

ATL-2013-0504 (Open to Status Candidates)