Study of potash in N.D. to be done

The North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources will be holding a hearing on its new subsurface rules next week in Bismarck.

The hearing is set for Tuesday from 9 to 11:30 a.m. in the Mineral Resources Department’s new building at 1000 E. Calgary Ave. The hearing is open to the public.

Ed Murphy, North Dakota state geologist, said the rules will cover a wide range of minerals.

Subsurface minerals means all naturally occurring elements and their compounds, volcanic ash, precious metals, carbonates, and natural mineral salts of boron, bromine, calcium, fluorine, iodine, lithium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, thorium, uranium, and sulfur, and their compounds, but does not include sand and gravel and rocks crushed for sand and gravel, according to the N.D. Century Code.

Potash is among the minerals included in the new subsurface rules, Murphy said.

He also said a geological study will be done of the potash in the state. Ned Kruger, a geologist, with the N.D. Geological Survey, will be the person to primarily work on the study that will possibly be completed by later this year.

Potash or potassium salts are primarily used in the production of fertilizer. Exploration took place in northwest North Dakota in the 1970s and more recently, Dakota Salts LLC did a test well near Lignite in Burke County.

The company was issued a permit for the potash test well in August 2010. It was the first exploratory drilling permit for potash issued in the state for more than 30 years. That exploratory well was drilled near Lignite in late 2010.

Dakota Salts LLC, incorporated in Bismarck, is a wholly owned subsidiary of Sirius Minerals Plc, a diversified potash exploration and development company based in London.

Dakota Salts leased more than 16,000 mineral acres in North Dakota for possible potash development.

Two years ago the North Dakota Legislature approved a 2 percent tax on potash production.

J.T. Starzecki, a spokesman for Sirius Minerals Plc. in Minneapolis, verified Dakota Salts now is focusing its efforts in England.

However, Murphy said there are a couple companies still interested in potash in the state.