Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 15
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1985
Terminology. The term potash originated in "pot ashes" produced by burning wood to ashes in iron pots and then leaching out the soluble salts, chiefly potassium carbonate, from the residue. In modern usage potash is a generic term for various potassium salts used in agriculture and industry. More specifically, it denotes the oxide of potassium, K2O, and the content of potassium in ores and products is stated as weight percent of K2O present. Its salts are commonly referred to as muriate of potash, sulfate of potash, etc. The presence of an adequate supply of available potassium in the soil promotes the health and improves the quality of the plant. insures greater efficiency in photosynthesis, increases resistance to certain diseases, offsets the effect of an oversupply of nitrogen, and helps the plant to utilize soil moisture more advantageously. ("Soils and Men," U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Yearbook 1938.) Occurrence. Potassium ranks seventh among the elements in abundance. It is estimated to constitute some 2.6% of the lithosphere and is found in soluble forms in the oceans, lakes, rivers, and subsurface waters. It is also an important constituent of plant and animal life. Commercially significant accumulations of potassium salts occur in underground deposits formed in past geologic times by evaporation of ancient bodies of saltwater, inland drainage basins, and shallow sea lagoons. The potash content of such waters was the end result of weathering and leaching of insoluble potash-bearing aluminosilicates, such as feldspars, micas, leucitcs, and others. The concentrations of potassium salts in the natural brines of some lakes in the arid and semiarid regions of the continents are also important as sources of potash; the brines of the Dead Sea in Asia Minor, the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and Searles Lake in California typify such concentrations. Every continent has major potash deposits as listed in Table 1 adopted from Cawley.1
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