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Potash

Portland, OR bulk mineral shipments, chiefly soda ash and potash, totaled 4.5 million tons in 2003, 12.1 percent more than the previous year.

U.S. production of natural soda ash from California and Wyoming in 1997 increased 5% to a record 10.7 million tons. The U.S. soda ash industry in 1997 was composed of six companies; five in Wyoming produced soda ash from underground trona ore, and one in California produced soda ash from sodium carbonate-rich brines. All of the six U.S. companies have either Australian, Belgian, French, South Korean, or Japanese partners. Soci�t� Nationale Elf Aquitaine of France owning 100% of Tg Soda Ash and Solvay S.A. of Belgium owning 80% of Solvay Minerals Co. Approximately 24% of the Wyoming soda ash production capacity is European-owned as of 1997 (Tg Soda Ash with 1.18 million metric tons and Solvay with 1.67 million tons); a decline from 35% in 1995 when Rh�ne-Poulenc S.A. of France sold its Wyoming soda ash facility to Oriental Chemical Industries of the Republic of South Korea.

A total of 209,000 tons of soda ash equivalent was used to manufacture chemical caustic soda in 1997 by FMC, Solvay Minerals, and Tg Soda Ash. The total quantity of trona mined in Wyoming in 1997 was 17.1 million tons.

Construction began on OCI Chemical Corp.'s soda ash expansion project that will raise total annual production capacity from 2.3 million tons to 3.1 million tons.

Glass manufacture represented about 49% of domestic soda ash consumption, with the container sector comprising 49%; flat, 35%; and specialty and fiber, 8% each. Production of glass containers declined from 9.79 million tons in 1996 to 9.62 million tons in 1997, primarily because of the beverage sector which continued to decline because more soft drinks were packaged in plastic containers than glass bottles. Production of glass containers for the beer industry increased 1.9% in 1997 from 3.66 million tons to 3.72 million tons.

Soda ash is used to manufacture many sodium-base inorganic chemicals, including sodium bicarbonate, sodium chromates, sodium phosphates, and sodium silicates. According to data from the Bureau of the Census, production of sodium bicarbonate increased from 440,000 tons in 1996 to 473,000 tons in 1997.

Detergents is the third largest use of soda ash. In response to the environmental issue, detergent manufacturers began reformulating their detergents to make compact and super concentrated products. These reformulations require sodium silicates and synthetic zeolites, which are made from soda ash.

About 39% of U.S. soda ash production is exported with the remainder for domestic consumption. In the domestic market, the large volume buyers of soda ash are primarily the major glass container manufacturers, whose purchases are seasonal (more beverage containers made in second and third quarters for summertime beverage consumption). Soda ash sales to the flat glass sector are usually dependent on the state of the economy because the largest use of flat glass is in automobile manufacture and residential housing and commercial building construction.

U.S. PRODUCTION CAPACITY OF SODA ASH IN 1997
FMC Wyoming Corp 3.55 million tons Formed joint venture (20%) in February 1996 with Sumitomo Corp. and Nippon Sheet Glass Co., Ltd., both of Japan.
General Chemical Partners 2.40 million tons A joint venture between General Chemical Corp. (51%), Australian Consolidated Industries International (ACI-25%), and TOSOH Wyoming Inc. of Japan (24%), which purchased part of ACI's share in June 1992.
North American Chemical Co. (was IMC Chemical Co. in 1999) at Trona, CA 1.45 million tons Oriental Chemical Industries Co. Ltd. of Korea as a partner had 27% equity share, but was reduced to about 7% in 1993.
OCI Chemical Corp. 2.30 million tons Rh�ne-Poulenc of France sold its 51% share to Oriental Chemical Industries Co. Ltd. (OCI) of Korea on February 29, 1996; Union Pacific Resources Co. owns 49%.
Solvay Minerals Inc. 2.30 million tons Solvay Soda Ash Joint Venture is owned by Solvay S.A. of Belgium (80%) and Asahi Glass Co. of Japan (20%), which became a partner in February 1990. Capacity increase of 300,000 tons installed December 1995.
Tg Soda Ash Inc. 1.30 million tons Owned by Texasgulf Inc., subsidiary of Soci�t� Nationale Elf Aquitaine of France (100%). Tg Soda Ash, Inc. was sold to FMC Wyoming Corp. in July 1999.

Western Exports in 1997
Portland, OR 2,740,000 tons most 1,760,000 tons went to Asia
San Diego, CA 398,000 tons most 204,000 tons went to Asia, 93,400 to South America
Houston, TX 119,000 most 93,900 tons to South America

Green River, WY history
TRONA as discovered in Sweetwater County in 1938 during oil and gas explorations. In 1947 Westvaco Chlorine Products Corp., the predecessor of FMC Corporation, sunk the first mineshaft and began production of trona ore. FMC employed 50 people and produced 80 tons per day of soda ash in 1947. In 1953, the first refined soda ash plant was built by FMC and produced 300,000 tons of soda ash per year. In 1962 Stauffer (OCI) entered into agreement with Union Pacific to produce soda ash. Allied (General Chemical) came on line in 1968. Teaxsgulf started producing soda ash in 1976. Tenneco (Solvay Minerals) started in 1982. The four companies produce over 15 million tons of trona and over 8 million tons of soda ash each year. The trona deposit varies in depth from 800 to 3500 feet below the surface and contains 42 layers of trona. Actual mining occurs at a depth of 800 to 1600 feet in beds that are 8 to 10 feet thick.

Trona, CA history
Lured by the Gold Rush of �49, John W. Searles and his brother Dennis sailed from New York to California. While searching for gold near the Panamint Mountains in 1862, John Searles came across a crusty dry lakebed. Noticing crystals shimmering in the sunlight, he scooped up a handful and tucked them in his oar sack, unaware that he had discovered the worlds richest deposits of chemicals. Ten years later Searles saw Francis "Borax" Smith recovering borax from similar crystals in Nevada. Suddenly recognizing the value of the dry lake he had found in California Searles backtracked. Searles and his associates staked claim to 640 acres and formed the San Bernardino Borax Mining Company. In 1874, its first year of operation the company produced 1 million pounds of borax worth an estimated $200,000.

In 1925, there were two companies in Trona: American Potash & Chemical Corporation and the West End Chemical Company. West End merged with Stauffer Chemical Company in 1956. Kerr-McGee acquired American Potash & Chemical Corporation in 1967 and began a multimillion-dollar study to explore the lake, develop new processes and examine market opportunities. Seven years later, Kerr-McGee acquired the Westend facility from Stauffer. Kerr-McGee completed its $175 million Argus soda ash plant in 1978. North American Chemical Corporation purchased the chemical plant around 1990 and was leasing at Searles Lake from the Bureau of Land Management up until they sold the Plant in December 1997 to IMC Global.

Potash Capacity 2000
IMC Kalium, Carlsbad, N.M. 225,000
Mississippi Potash, Carlsbad, N.M. (East) 365,000
Mississippi Potash, Carlsbad, N.M. (West) 305,000
Moab Salt, Moab, Utah 30,000
Reilly Industries, Wendover, Utah 95,000

The potash industry has been in the Carlsbad, NM area for nearly a century. Potash was discovered in 1926 and drilling began in 1929. Potash, a fertilizer ingredient, is mined from underground deposits found among the sand dunes and mesquite east of Carlsbad. Local refining efforts of this excellent fertilizer began in 1932. For decades, the wafting plumes from scattered potash refinery smokestacks have been a familiar sight in the remote area, where at least seven mining sites were established. Before extensive foreign ore reserves were discovered, Carlsbad once was known as the "potash capital of the world. "Annual production during WWII increased to hundreds of thousands of tons, exceeding production figures throughout the nation. However, production declined in the late 1960s.

Mississippi Chemical Corp., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May 2003, temporarily idled its two potash mines in Carlsbad, N.M., the following month. The two potash mines have been taken down primarily as a result of excess inventories. While the mines are closed, Mississippi Chemical intends to serve its customers from existing inventory. The company projects that the two mines will be returned to active production after summer�s end.

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