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Robert Jones | all galleries >> US West - South West >> 2010 >> Dead Horse Point And Canyonlands, Moab, UT > Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, UT
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Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, UT

Dead Horse Point State Park, Moab, UT

You may ask yourself just what the heck the blue ponds are ...

The Cane Creek potash mine located about 20 miles west of Moab is unique because of the method used to extract the potash ore. The mine began as a conventional underground excavation in 1964, but was converted in 1970 to a system combining solution mining and solar evaporation.

Water from the nearby Colorado River is pumped through injection wells into the underground mine. The water dissolves the potash from layers buried approximately 3,000 feet below the surface. The mineral-laden water (brine) is then brought to the surface and piped to 400 acres of shallow ponds just southwest of the mine. There the water evaporates, aided by 300 days of sunshine and an average of 5% relative humidity, leaving potash (potassium chloride) and salt (sodium chloride) crystals in the pond. A blue dye, similar to food coloring, is added to assist with the evaporation process.

The solar ponds are lined with heavy vinyl to prevent valuable brine from leaking into the ground and the Colorado River. A series of holding ponds have been constructed to catch any spills and return potassium-rich brine to the ponds. There are no hazardous materials produced or used in the ponds or at the processing plant.

The crystals remaining after evaporation are scooped by giant 25-ton scraper-loaders similar to those used in road building. The blades of the scrapers are controlled by laser beams from the edges of the ponds so they do not dip too low and tear the vinyl pond linings.

Some 700 to 1,000 tons of potash per day are produced by the mill. Processed potash and salt is moved throughout the plant on covered conveyors keeping the potash pure and overhead costs low.

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