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NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- BHP Billiton's ( BHP) $40 billion battle for control of Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan ( POT) dominated the M&A headlines in 2010.

BHP's efforts, of course, ultimately failed when the Canadian government came to the rescue of one of its prized corporate entities. Potash Corp., which controls the world's largest reserve of its eponymous crop nutrient, was judged too important to sell off to a foreign corporation, and the Canadian government ended up blocking a deal that Potash itself was fighting to prevent.

While the drama was unfolding, we published an ongoing slideshow primer -- a manual, a Cliff's Notes, an A-to-Z guidebook -- that attempted to break down and explain all the elements (people, places, issues, obstacles) that played a role in determining the story's ultimate outcome.

It's a story that had a Big Theme and a lot at stake: potash is considered the most profitable fertilizer product in the world, and so crucial to crop health -- and therefore the world food supply -- that possessing potash mines has become a political as well as business issue. Nourishing the world's expanding billions, especially in places with rising middle classes (read: China), has become synonymous with the very word "potash."

>>Look for BHP to Pay Up for Potash

Taking its cue from the Saskatchewan provincial government, which investigated the economic impact a BHP acquisition of Potash would have on the region, the Canadian federal government concluded that such a deal "does not provide a 'net benefit' to the people of Saskatchewan and Canada."

A study commissioned by Saskatchewan, released on Oct. 4, concluded that a BHP takeover of Potash could remove 2 billion Canadian dollars from the province's coffers over the course of 10 years.

BHP Billiton dispatched squadrons of executives to Ottawa and Regina, the Saskatchewan capital, to lobby for the deal's passage.

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