Potash

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Potash is the common name for various mined and manufactured salts that contain potassium in water-soluble form. In some rare cases, potash can be formed with traces of organic materials such as plant remains.[1]

Contents

Terminology

Potash refers to potassium compounds and potassium-bearing materials, the most common being potassium chloride (KCl). The term "potash" comes from the old-Dutch word potaschen. The old method of making potassium carbonate (K2CO3) was by leaching wood ashes and evaporating the solution in large iron pots, leaving a white residue called "pot ash".[2][3] Later, "potash" became the term widely applied to naturally occurring potassium salts and the commercial product derived from them.[4]

The following table lists a number of potassium compounds which use the word potash in their traditional names:

History

Potash (specially potassium carbonate) has been used from the dawn of history in bleaching textiles, making glass, and, from about A.D. 500, in making soap. Potash was principally obtained by leaching the ashes of land and sea plants. Beginning in the 14th century potash was mined in Ethiopia. One of the world's largest deposits, 140 to 150 million tons, is located in the Tigray's Dallol area.[5] Potash was one of the most important industrial chemicals in Canada. It was refined from the ashes of broadleaved trees and produced primarily in the forested areas of Europe, Russia, and North America. The first U.S. patent was issued in 1790 to Samuel Hopkins for an improvement "in the making Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process."[6]

As early as 1767, potash from wood ashes was exported from Canada, and exports of potash and pearl ash (potash and lime) reached 43,958 barrels in 1865. There were 519 asheries in operation in 1871. The industry declined in the late 19th century when large-scale production of potash from mineral salts was established in Germany. In 1943, potash was discovered in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the process of drilling for oil. Active exploration began in 1951. In 1958, the Potash Company of America became the first potash producer in Canada with the commissioning of an underground potash mine at Patience Lake; however, due to water seepage in its shaft, production stopped late in 1959 and, following extensive grouting and repairs, resumed in 1965. The underground mine was flooded in 1987 and was reactivated for commercial production as a solution mine in 1989.[3]

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