Potash has a long history in Germany. The world's first potash deposits were discovered in Staßfurt in Saxony-Anhalt, now a German state, in 1856, and potash mining began at Staßfurt five years later. Germany remained the world's only potash producer until the beginning of the 20th century, though of course now the material is mined all over the world. That said, the country is still a significant producer — it put out 30,000 tonnes of potash in 2013, behind only Canada, Russia, Belarus and China. According to the US Geological Survey, Germany's reserves of potash are estimated at 1.4 million tonnes. The nation's extensive history with potash gives companies working there access to regional knowledge regarding all stages of the mining process, from geology to processing. In addition, potash-focused companies in Germany have access to infrastructure, while the country's geographical position is an advantage in that it provides an easy gateway to the European fertilizer market. Major producers Unsurprisingly, Germany is home to a number of major potash producers. Here's a brief look at two. K+S (ETR:SDF,FWB:SDF) Agricultural chemical and salt company K+S produces potash and salt and has a presence throughout Europe. In total, the company operates six mines in three German potash-producing districts: the Hanover district in Lower Saxony, the Calvörder district in Saxony-Anhalt and the Werra-Fulda district in Hesse and Thuringia. Because of the composition of Germany's raw potash material, which is a sulfate type that has more magnesium sulfate and potassium sulfate minerals than deposits elsewhere, K+S has a product range that is diverse. DEUSA International DEUSA International is part of industrial holdings company Siem Industries (OTCMKTS:SEMUF). According to a brochure, it produces potassium chloride, along with magnesium chloride, sodium chloride and various salts, at its chemical industrial park in Bleicherode. The company also mines and processes carnallitite at an industrial plant in Thuringia.
One of the things DEUSA prides itself on is being environmentally friendly. For instance, it states that when processing carnallitite, it washes out the salt underground using an environmentally friendly method. The material is then transported to the surface, with magnesium chloride and potassium chloride being separated underground from substances that can't be used. "The residues remain in the deposit beds and thus contribute towards the stability of the caverns thus created," as per DEUSA, making "the formation of waste dumps for the residues completely superfluous."The company has customers throughout Europe and beyond, including Jordan, Egypt, South Korea and Russia. Exploration work Though Germany is certainly full of heavyweight potash producers, there's at least one smaller company working on gaining a foothold in the country. Potash West (ASX:PWN,OTCMKTS:PWNNY), an exploration company with operations in Western Australia's Perth Basin, recently announced its entry into the potash market in Germany via a joint venture with East Exploration. "This is a terrific opportunity for Potash West to expand its global presence by establishing a foothold in the European potash market," Patrick McManus, the company's managing director, said in a release. "This will give the company potential to produce from areas that would not be as well serviced by production from its Dandaragan Trough project." The joint venture has applied for two exploration license areas. Though historical drilling intersected potash mineralization over large parts of those areas, production came to a halt back in 1992 due to low potash prices. Potash West is now depending on the explosion in global food production to create demand for potash. Related reading: World-class Potash Deposits 2013 Top 10 Potash-producing Countries Potash in Germany: An Overview from Potash Investing News