"Potash" includes a group of potassium (chemical symbol K) bearing salts and chemicals. During ancient times, soluble potassium was used as a fertiliser, derived by soaking wood and plant ashes in large iron pots. Potassium was filtered from wood ashes. It was then concentrated by evaporating the solution in big iron pots. Thus, it derived the name “Pot-Ash”.
Potash deposits have different concentrations of potassium; hence Potassium oxide (K2O) equivalence is used in the industry for consistency. However, potassium chloride (KCl) is the most produced form of Potash.
Uses of Potash:
· Potash is majorly used as a fertiliser (Approximately 95%). It increases the crop yield, supports and enhances growth, protects crops from diseases, and enhances water preservation in plants.
· Small quantities are also used to manufacture potassium-rich pharmaceutical chemicals, glass, soaps, explosives, etc.
· Potassium is required for normal cell function and optimum human body growth. It also helps in the maintenance and development of human organs and tissues.
· It also plays an important role in the electrical activity of heart. For an average adult, approximately 2 grams of potassium is required per day.
Global Potash distribution:
Potassium is the seventh most abundantly available element in the earth's crust. Especially, clay minerals are categorised as good sources of potassium, containing as much as 17% potash in them.
Potassium occurs naturally in rain in a very small quantity of about four parts per million (PPM), while the concentration in seawater is approximately 390 mg/l of Potassium.
Canada is the world’s largest potash producer, contributing around 32% of total global production, followed by Russia, Belarus and China. Cumulatively, these four countries are responsible for about 80% of global potash production as of 2020.
Potash mining techniques:
Two mining techniques are used to extract potash from the subsurface: solution and conventional underground mining.
Solution mining is used where potash deposits are much deeper in the earth's crust. Water or brine is injected into the ore body via wells, and water-soluble potash gets dissolved in the injected water or brine. This solution of dissolved potash is then pumped to the surface facilities, where potash is recovered through recrystallisation.
Conventional underground mining is a traditional method which involves boring machines digging out the ore, which is then crushed and refined in the processing mill to extract potash.
ASX Potash companies
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Frequently Asked Questions
All agricultural fertilisers contain three primary plant nutrients. These are Potash, soluble phosphorus, and fixed nitrogen. Out of these three nutrients, potash and soluble phosphorus are derived from mining, while fixed Nitrogen is produced from the atmosphere using industrial processes.
These three nutrients are required in large quantities to obtain a high crop yield and optimum crop growth. However, other nutrients are needed in comparably lower amounts. Molybdenum, sulphur, zinc, boron, calcium, chlorine, magnesium, manganese, copper, and iron are trace nutrients required for plant growth.
High-yielding crops are developed to fulfil the growing population's demand as the former takes up a lot of potash from the field during their lifetime. When harvested, these crops remove large amounts of potash from the area. In many areas, this Potash deficiency is not usually matched with fertilisation.
MOP stands for Muriate of Potash, and SOP stands for Sulfate of Potash.
· MOP accounts for almost 95% of agricultural potash worldwide, while SOP is the second major form of potash available in the market.
· Chemically, MOP is half chloride and half Potassium; hence, using it will also help in fulfilling the chloride demand. SOP does not contain any chloride; therefore, it is used in fields rich in chloride.
· MOP is usually used as a fertiliser for carbohydrate crops like oats and barley, while SOP is used for growing vegetables and fruit crops.
· MOP is cheaper compared to other forms of Potash, including SOP.
The sodium content in potash is high, and it can lead to various health issues like headaches, stroke, an increase in blood pressure, and kidney diseases. Potash is used as a food softener, but in the process, it reduces the protein content in the dish, leading to protein deficiency in the long run. Caustic Potash (KOH) causes lung irritation, and higher exposure to it can result in fluid accumulation in lungs. It can also cause skin allergies.