Waste Problem Curbs K+S Potash Output
German minerals producer Kali+Salz (K+S) has announced it will have to temporarily suspend potash production at its sites at Hattorf and Unterbreizbach from Apr. 1 and introduce short-time working at its Werra plant, all in Germany.
The company said the constraints are due to the low levels of rainfall over the past few weeks, which will put limits on wastewater discharges into the river Werra.
Short-time working will apply to around 650 employees at the Hattorf and the Hattorf-Wintershall mine as well as to some 300 employees at Unterbreizbach and Merkers. Production at the Wintershall site will continue for the present.
“Unfortunately, this step is unavoidable,” said Werra plant manager Roland Keidel.
K+S has been in a protracted discourse with and among the German states in which it operates over injecting saline wastewater into the soil to relieve the burden on the river. While the German authorities are prepared to wait until 2027 for complying with water quality standards, EU legislation demands that they should have been met in 2015.
Following the completion of an expert review, K+S expects a final decision to be made in the summer of this year on its application filed in April 2015 seeking the continuation of the practice of injection until the end of 2021.
Barring all other solutions, the state of Hesse, where the company is headquartered, favors piping the salt waste to the North Sea; however, the coastal state of Lower Saxony objects.
Until a final decision is made, K+S said the disposal of saline wastewater will continue to closely depend on the flow of water in the Werra and the capacity of the available retention basins.