Leasable Minerals, Potash

Potash is a generic term for any of the various compounds containing potassium, especially in water soluble form. About 85% of the potash produced in the U.S. is used in the fertilizer industry, and the remainder is used in the chemical industry to create products such as animal feed supplements, water softeners, food products, soaps, deicing chemicals, batteries, drilling fluids, and pharmaceutical.

Potash is a designated critical mineral due to its essential and irreplaceable role in plant growth (food production) and the limited sources of supply. The first U.S. patent (Patent No.1), signed by President George Washington on July 31, 1790, was for an improvement in potash manufacture which was the first chemical industry in the U.S.

The two potash minerals mined in New Mexico are sylvite (potassium chloride) and langbeinite (potassium-magnesium sulfate). The minerals are mined from two underground mines and one solution mine which involve Federal potassium leases in southeastern New Mexico. In 2019, these mines produced about 280,000 short tons of potash which was half of the U.S. potash production of about 560,000 short tons. The U.S. potash production had a wholesale value of about $400 million in 2019. (https://pubs.usgs.gov/periodicals/mcs2020/mcs2020-potash.pdf).

Potash mining provided about 750 jobs in rural New Mexico in 2020. A net $4.4 million of the Federal revenue from the potassium leases was shared with the State of New Mexico in 2019.

The BLM places a priority on potash development within a designated potash area of about 500,000 acres in southeastern New Mexico but allows co‑development of oil/gas deposits within the area on a case‑by‑case basis per Secretary of the Interior Order 3324 (77 FR 71814, December 4, 2012).