This is a good overview of what’s happening, and expected to happen, in potash mining development in the Holbrook Basin and the Real AZ Corridor over the next few years:
Passport Potash and Prospect Global are two exploration-stage mining companies with significant claims to the potash rights in and around the Holbrook Basin of eastern Arizona. As previously mentioned, there is a blueprint that greenfield companies follow to move from exploration to production. Both companies are following this blueprint on the same trajectory.
For the most part, the U.S. has potash deposits that, until recently, have not been economically viable to develop. The U.S. imports 80-90% of its potash- an unashamed “net importer.” Potash is mined in small amounts in Utah, Michigan and New Mexico. Intrepid Potash (IPI) operates two potash mines in Utah and one in New Mexico. Mosaic mines potash in Michigan and also New Mexico. Potash from reasonably-priced domestic sources can have a competitive advantage because transportation costs are lower. Additional consideration is given to domestic potash because of the significant strengthening of the U.S. dollar versus the Canadian dollar during the past couple years.
Arizona may be critical to expanding domestic potash production. In addition to being one of the friendliest and safest areas of the world for mining, Arizona’s deserts and plains have favorable year-round climates. Arizona’s Holbrook Basin has between 682 million metric tons to 2.27 billion metric tons of potash deposits, according to the Arizona Geological Survey. This deposit underlies 600 square miles east of Holbrook, Arizona in the northeastern area of the state. The Petrified Forrest National Park is located squarely in the center of the formation. The site is served by railroad, highway, power and water.
Arizona’s Holbrook geophysical formation is not a new discovery. Minerals were discovered here in the 1960s after initial mineral exploration. Exploratory holes have been drilled over the years, and there is a significant amount of historical information. The top of the potash deposit is situated from 700 to 2,000 feet below the ground surface; most of the deposit is found at about 1,200 to 1,300 feet deep. Maximum thickness of the potash is about 40 feet and averages less than 20 feet. In comparison to the large deposits in Saskatchewan, Canada, Arizona’s potash is about 50% less thick yet 50% shallower, meaning that the mine will be about 50% less expensive to build. Reports of the average grade of Arizona’s potash range from 6% to 20%.
As a number of permanent demand changes appear to be sustaining potash around $400 (well above its historical price range of $100), the potash deposits in the Holbrook Basin in Arizona have become economically feasible to develop. Prospect Global and Passport Potash are competing to take advantage of this opportunity by entering production within the next three to four years. Investors, looking for a way to gain exposure to potash exploration in the United States, may want to consider these two junior potash companies.
At this point, both companies are approximately four years away from any mining operations (lengthy preparation is typical in potash mining). However, both have the requisite resources for building a mine: supportive government, enthusiastic blue-collar labor force, no safety concerns, billions in potash deposits, and easy access to power, water, rail and highway. Exploration-stage potash companies are not the right investment option for every investor, but with the U.S. importing 90% of its consumption, there is an obvious need for new domestic producers.
Read the full profile and report here, which includes a detailed timeline and more project information. It’s long, but defiitely worth a few minutes: