Potash mining and water protection

For more than 125 years, K+S has been helping to overcome the challenges of the future. Our raw materials and plant nutrients are needed worldwide. We realize that, as with all industrial production, we are interfering with nature when we extract and refine potash and salt.

What has K+S done for water protection?

  • In past decades, K+S has undertaken much to improve the environmental situation on the Werra and the Weser rivers.
  • Between 1997 and 2015, we reduced saline wastewater by almost two thirds.
  • We invested around 400 million euros on this in the most modern technical equipment and processes between 2011 and 2015 alone, as part of the “package of water protection measures”.

What is K+S planning in relation to water protection for the future?

  • K+S wants to resolve the disposal issues at the Werra in the long term and will invest a further 400 million euros in water protection in the years to come.
  • The KCF facility on which construction work has already started will lead to another significant reduction of a good 20% in quantities of saline wastewater from 2018 onward.
  • We are working on site-customized processes to cover tailings piles and are searching for safe technical possibilities to dispose of saline wastewater in mines (storage).

Why is K+S currently facing problems with wastewater disposal?

  • There are mainly two ways of disposing of saline wastewater. These are discharge into the Werra river and deep-well injection into the ground.
  • Between January 1, 2017 and December 31, 2021, K+S is allowed to inject an annual volume of 1.5 cubic meters. That is less than K+S needs and applied for. Beside this the permit of December 23, 2016 to continue deep-well injection also includes a number of ancillary provisions which reduces K+S’ flexibility with regards to wastewater disposal. 
  • The second means of disposing of saline wastewater is discharge into the Werra river. How much can be discharged in what period of time is determined by officially stipulated threshold values. With a low water flow of the Werra, the discharge is smaller.
  • In dry summer months in particular, significant bottlenecks in wastewater disposal therefore occur.
  • Plants had to, and still do have to, keep stopping production in part. This has a severe impact on the economic efficiency of the sites.

What is being undertaken to manage the current bottlenecks in wastewater disposal?

  • To increase flexibility with regard to wastewater disposal, K+S is continuing to work rigorously on finding additional means for the recycling and disposal of saline wastewater. The focus in this regard is on disposal in own and third party mines and/or caverns in close proximity to the sites as well as in regions further afield involving shipping by truck or rail.
  • In addition, work is continuing as planned on long-term measures to prevent saline wastewater, including the construction of a KCF plant in particular. Once it is completed, the disposal situation should improve somewhat from 2018 onward.