RM Potash, a subsidiary of the Sydney, Australia-based Red Metal Limited mineral exploration company, is proposing a two-phased exploration program in order to determine whether potash deposits are of grade, thickness, orientation and continuity for commercial development of a potash mining operation in the region. The exploration operations for this prospecting permit are about 15 miles north of Dove Creek and U.S. Highway 491 in the vicinity of Egnar, within San Miguel and Dolores counties. The initial phase includes drilling up to six drill holes to recover sufficient core samples to facilitate potassium analyses and accurate determinations of thickness of the potash beds.
Potash is the common name for a group of naturally occurring minerals containing the element potassium, which is a leasable mineral under the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920.
Potassium, primarily used to make fertilizer, is one of the three main ingredients in most fertilizer mixtures. The U.S. imports over 90 percent of its potassium fertilizer. Potassium also has a wide variety of additional uses in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries. Beds of rock salt containing layers of potash minerals were deposited in southwest Colorado during the evaporation of an ancient marine sea.
If the initial exploration drilling exploration results indicate the deposit is not commercially viable, according to BLM officials, then RM Potash will discontinue drilling efforts and reclaim all associated disturbances. If results are favorable, however, the project will proceed to Phase 2, which includes additional exploration drill holes to adequately delineate the deposit. Between 10 and 20 holes may be drilled on about six acres.
Whenever possible, previously disturbed areas such as roads and drill pads would be utilized. Geophysical studies, including seismic studies, may be proposed at a later date to help correlate between core holes. Supplemental NEPA analysis would be prepared on the site-specific disturbance proposals, and supplemental exploration plans would be approved along with the affected prospecting permit applications.
Areas within the permit application areas that would be off-limits to future potash exploration drilling or other disturbances, due to resource concerns, would also be identified in the initial Environmental Assessment, along with standard stipulations and best management practices that could be applied to any future proposed exploration activities.
The BLM will decide whether or not the proposed action has significant impacts on the natural environment. A decision for the initial exploration drill holes is expected sometime between September 2011 and January 2012.
Drilling would commence shortly thereafter, subject to any timing stipulations determined by the BLM to protect natural resources and wildlife. In total, all core drilling and associated exploration work is expected to last up to four years from the approval of the initial drilling.
At next week’s public meeting in Dove Creek, an RM Potash representative will explain the proposed project and answer technical questions; BLM representatives will be on hand, as well, to answer questions about the regulatory and permitting process. The public is invited to meet with BLM and review larger scale maps. Resource specialists will be available to provide information, answer questions and receive written comments.
The BLM requests that comments focus on the nature and scope of the environmental, social and economic issues, and on possible alternatives related to the proposed action. To assist the BLM in identifying and considering issues and concerns related to the proposed action, comments should be as specific as possible. Submit any written comments to:
Attn: RM Potash Exploration Project EA, c/o: James Blair, Dolores Public Lands Office, Bureau of Land Management, 29211 Hwy. 184, Dolores, CO, 81323
Comments may also be faxed to 970/882-6841.