Crystal Peak Minerals achieved a major milestone in its quest to build its Sevier Playa Project in Southwest Utah when Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joseph Balash signed a record of decision (ROD) from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management for the project during a ceremony in Salt Lake City, UT on Aug. 27.
The ROD comes after five years of environmental analysis of the sulphate of phosphate project and while Crystal Peak Minerals still needs to secure some state permits and water rights, as well as financing, the ROD significantly de-risks the project.
“Mr. Balash’s signature means that the ROD is now in “full force and effect” indicating that playa construction is now authorized,” Crystal Peak Minerals said in a statement.
The mine is expected to have a 30-year life potash production as high as 337 kt/a (372,000 stpy), worth $232 million at the current price of $625 a ton. The firm also expects to extract salt and magnesium chloride and support quality employment in a rural part of Utah with about 250 jobs during construction and about 150 when it is fully operational.
The firm plans to drill up to 2,264 wells and cut up to 492 km (306 miles) of trenches into the lakebed to collect brines that will be moved through a system of ponds, covering up to 18,000 acres, according to the project’s environmental impact statement. As the water evaporates, the brines will get more concentrated as they pass through ponds from north to south.
The fluids will be so concentrated at the southern ponds that the minerals will precipitate out and moved into a processing plant sited at the playa’s south end near the ghost town of Black Rock off State Road 257. A 5.6-km (3.5-mile) rail spur will connect the plant with the existing Union Pacific line to the east.
Balash was joined by Crystal Peak Minerals chief executive officer John Mansanti who said, “The signing of the ROD is the most important milestone in this company’s history. As one of the few greenfield SOP projects approved in the world, we are absolutely thrilled. Securing the ROD initiates an exciting phase for the company. We look forward to a number of important announcements in the coming months in relation to financing, offtake, and the project.”
The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the Canada-based firm obtained mineral rights to the Sevier playa by paying a $19 million bonus to the federal government. It will pay a 5 percent royalty on all production. At today’s prices and at the company’s production goals, that royalty could generate up to $11.5 million a year, half of which would go to the state.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the project. We believe that we’ve done a good job to look out after the environmental feasibility of this project and the economic viability as well,” said Mike Gates, the BLM’s Fillmore Field Office manager. “I think we’ve struck a good balance.”
The project has the potential to double U.S. production of the more valuable form of potash — sulfate of potash — a chemical union of two key plant nutrients, potassium and sulfur. Utah’s evaporative potash mines are the nation’s only source of potassium sulfate, used on high-value crops such as nuts, fruits and potatoes.
According to the Utah Geological Survey, Utah produced 491,000 tons of potash in 2018, worth $241 million, and it remains the only domestic producer of sulfate of potash. U.S. growers now import about 90 percent of this more valuable potash.
Photo: Joseph Balash, the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Land and Minerals Management, signs the Record of Decision. Crystal Peak Minerals Inc.