Open File Report 2009-20

Open File Report 2009-20

OFR 2009-20

Preliminary Investigation of Potash Potential in Alberta

This report provides an historical examination of potash exploration in Alberta together with a reconnaissance investigation that includes geological modelling of Alberta's groundwater and formation water datasets, and a preliminary geochemical evaluation of selected Prairie Evaporite cores.

From the late 1800s onwards, salt has been an essential ingredient in the development of Alberta's mineral resource industry. The same cannot be said for potash, a potassium-bearing impurity of salt, for which the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan is the worldwide leader in potash production. Interest in potash exploration has recently spilled over the border into eastern Alberta. This is largely due to global potash markets that continue to experience favourable growth due to the steady rise of the world's population and subsequent demand for food crop fertilizers. Renewed interest in Alberta's potash potential is aided by the results of historical 1940s drilling, mid-1960s exploration and mid-1970s government work.

Previous studies have shown that formation waters associated with middle Devonian strata in southeastern Alberta, particularly those of the Beaverhill Lake Group, have elevated levels of potassium; this anomaly was also thought to correspond to potash mineralization in the underlying Prairie Evaporite salt. This report illustrates that greater than 10 000 mg/l K formation waters are prevalent throughout western Alberta in areas that are not underlain by the Prairie Evaporite Formation.