Intrepid Potash Wendover, Utah

Wendover’s potash production dates back to WWI, when the Utah Salduro Company extracted potash here from 1917-1921. After that operations ceased until WWII. In 1939 operations began again, expanded into almost 100 square miles of pounds and canals. Kaiser Aluminum and Chemical Corporation took over operations in 1964. When its current owner, Intrepid Potash took over in 2004, the mine was owned by Reilly Industries, one of the few remaining family-run chemical companies, which dissolved the following year. With potash’s chemical connection to salt beds, it makes sense that the Bonneville Flats, the largest saltiest salt flat in the nation, was among the first places to be commercially mined for potash. The process involves around 100 miles of ditches, 20 feet deep, dug into the salt flats. With the water table just a few feet below the salty and muddy surface, the ditches immediately fill with water containing the dissolved minerals of the region held in solution. The ditches lead into a central canal  the mother canal  which ends at a pumping station. The water is pumped into a network of evaporation ponds, first dropping out salt, which is scraped off and sold or dumped. The water moves on to a harvest pond, where it dries from a briny potash slurry, and then is scraped up and taken to the plant where it is crushed, flotated, and dried to become muriate of potash (MOP). For more than 50 years, the plant has produced between 65,000 and 100,000 tons of potash a year, depending on the weather (especially rain, which dilutes the ponds).