Experience from the beginning of the potash industry

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Holding Structure and Subsidiaries
The Roots
The Past
The Present
 
 
 
 

The cradle of the worldwide potash industry ...

... is the town of Stassfurt, south of Magdeburg, in the North Harz district of Central Germany.

In 1861 carnallite processing by a simple cold leaching technology started here. Due to the lack of experience and missing of theoretical understanding of the widespread interactions between rock mechanics, mine stability and subsurface solution processes the pioneers of potash mining did fatal mistakes.

Today, the natural environment in this area is influenced by early potash mining which needs a permanent monitoring of subsurface processes. The long-term experiences in this area are both source and motivation for sustainable and environmental safe design of modern potash and mineral salt production facilities.

 

The first underground dispository for radioactive waste in salt rocks ...

... was established in the rock salt mine Bartensleben-Marie near Morsleben. Early investigations and basic concepts for this project were developed on the mining and rock mechanical experiences from potash and rock salt mining and carried out by the predeccessor of ERCOSPLAN , the KALI-INGENIEURBÜRO in 1966.

During the operating time approximately 36,750m³ of low and medium radioactive waste as well as 6,621 radiation sources were safely stored.

Since 1999 this dispository is in closing procedure. The significance of this underground dispository can be explained by the fact that the stored wastes are separated from the biosphere on a long term basis.

 

The first slurry backfill operation ...

... started in the Bleicherode mine in 1908. Guided by the experience from several rock mechanical problems in the young Stassfurt potash mining district, like roof instabilities, pillar collapses and rock bursts which led in connections with water inflows to the loss of whole mines, the Prussian Mining Authority stipulated the general regulation for backfilling of potash mining in 1896.

Driven by this mining law the potash mine operators were looking for efficient backfill methods and adapted the hydraulic backfill method from the Silesian coal mining industry and backfilled the whole amount of processing residues into the mine openings after extraction.

Due to the relatively low cost and the high efficiency, this technology conquered the  young potash industry. By 1911 about 6.6 million cubic metres of backfill material have been brought into 30 separate mines. In the South Harz potash district a total amount of 37.7 million tonnes processing residues were backfilled between 1955 and 1964 which corresponded to 60 to 80 % of the total accumulated residues.

Today, highly efficient slurry backfill operations are used for residue backfill as well as industrial waste utilisation for backfilling measures in the mines of Sondershausen, Bleicherode, Sollstedt and Unterbreizbach.

The most modern potash plant in Europe ...

... is located in Zielitz, north of Magdeburg, Central Germany. The sylvite deposit was explored during the 1960‘s, design and engineering was completed in 1972 by the KALI-INGENIEURBÜRO Erfurt, the predecessor of ERCOSPLAN.

Since July 1973 the Zielitz plant has produced MOP fertilizers and potash products for industrial use. After a widespread modernisation of the plant in the mid 1990`s the annual production capacity strongly increased.

Today, the Zielitz plant is operated by K+S KALI GmbH with an extraction of more than 40,000 tons ROM per day. In 2005 - like a gift to the 50th anniversary of establishment of the KALI-INGENIEURBÜRO the production broke through the 1.5 million tonnes K2O marker line.

 

The first processing plant for sylvite worldwide ...

... started industrial production by hot leaching technology in February 1898 in Sondershausen, South Harz district of Central Germany.

The main production period here was 1970 until 1992 when 560 million tonnes potash ore were used for a production of more than 130 million tonnes of potassium fertilizers, equal to a money value of approx. 7.5 billion US $.

Today, post-operational backfill of the mine openings, partly by re-use of industrial waste material, is still active in the South Harz district.

Beside these underground activities the main focus on Earth‘s surface is to cover the huge tailings piles with a total volume of 170 million cubic meters by soil and planting.

 

The centre of innovative engineering of the German potash industry ...

... was established in 1955 under the name of KALI-INGENIEURBÜRO in Erfurt.

Today, at the same location ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies as the successor of the former KALI-INGENIEURBÜRO is still active serving industrial clients, mining and environmental authorities around the world by transferring special know-how for successful projects.

 

The highly efficient selective solution mining technology of carnallite ...

... was developed at the Kehmstedt site, South Harz district
of Central Germany.

The low-grade carnallitic potash ore is selectively solved by hot leaching in double-well caverns. The saturated brines are processed to potassium fertilizers as well as to several magnesium products.

Today, this innovative potash plant is operated by DEUSA International GmbH which has spent more than 25 million € for debottlenecking and extension during the last three years.

The most valuable potash deposit ...

... has been under extraction in the Werra district, Central Germany, since 1900. Beside KCl contents up to 20 percent in average remarkable Kieserite contents up to 20 percent qualify this deposit to one of the world class mineral resources.

Up to today, approximately 10 percent of the cumulative world potash production were created in this potash district.

Today, the unified Werra production center, operated by K+S KALI GmbH , is an important backbone for the German MOP and SOP production.