The BLM leases certain solid minerals such as phosphate, sodium, potassium, sulphur, gilsonite or a hardrock mineral on public and other federal lands. The BLM may also lease these minerals on certain private lands, provided the mineral rights are owned by the federal government.
The BLM will issue prospecting permits, under 43 CFR 3505 , in areas where we do not know a mineral deposit exists. A prospecting permit gives you the exclusive right to prospect and explore for leasable mineral deposits. You may remove only material needed to demonstrate the existence of a valuable mineral.
If during the term of the prospecting permit, the permitee demonstrates the existence of a valuable deposit of the leasable mineral for which BLM issued the permit, the BLM may issue a preference right lease to the permittee without competition. In addition, preference right leases have other requirements as outlined under the regulations at 43 CFR 3500.
Most of the minerals leased under this program are used to make fertilizer, feed stock (mineral supplement for livestock) or other industrial processes.
In areas where the federal government acquired the land, the BLM may lease base and precious metals, such as Uranium under this program.
Currently, “Natural Soda” is an active in-situ sodium operation in western Colorado that produces pure natural sodium bicarbonate from nahcolite leases which cover 9,400 acres. This plant is one of the largest producers of sodium bicarbonate in North America, and its mining facility is located in Piceance Creek Basin, atop the largest known, naturally-occurring, commercial deposit of sodium bicarbonate in North America. The Natural Soda plant was completed in 1991 and began production that same year. It was designed to produce 125,000 tons annually.
Natural Soda recovers sodium bicarbonate using a process known as solution mining. This involves pumping hot water 1,900 feet underground to dissolve the underlying nahcolite beds and return the saturated liquid to the surface. By reducing the temperature of the liquid, sodium bicarbonate is crystallized in solution. Excess water is then removed by high speed centrifuging (spin drying). The resultant damp crystal mass is further dried, screened, and packed in accordance with industry designated specifications. The product is then packaged in 50 lb bags, or in bulk, and is transported to customers by truck or rail.
Natural Soda can produce five U.S. Pharmacopoeia (USP) grades of sodium bicarbonate in addition to both industrial and animal feed grades. Most products are distributed throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Potash is the common name for a group of naturally occurring minerals containing the element potassium (K), which is a leasable mineral under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920. Beds of rock salt containing layers of potash minerals were deposited in southwest Colorado during the evaporation of an ancient marine sea.
Proposed Mining Activity in Colorado: