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WMU researchers discover potentially lucrative mineral deposit


Researchers at Western Michigan University have discovered a mineral deposit in northern Michigan they say could lead to a multi-billion dollar industry.

A company interested in mining for potassium chloride – also called potash -- approached researchers at Western’s Geological Repository for Research and Education, where they keep thousands of samples of the earth’s core from around the state.

William Harrison directs the repository.

“We collected some samples and sent them off for testing and it turned out that that rock was the highest quality potash anywhere known in the world. It was just a remarkable thing,” he says.

Harrison says pure potassium chloride is about 63% potassium.

Potash samples
Credit WMU
A potash sample, housed in WMU's Geological Repository for Research and Education.

“We have found a few samples in our testing that have been as high as 60%. So that means that the rock is almost pure potassium chloride. And most of the potassium that’s mined around the world is anywhere from 10 to 30%,” says Harrison.

Potash is one of three ingredients that make almost every kind of fertilizer.

There are no immediate mining plans, but there is a company that’s looking for investors to back the project.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Radio’s Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.