Potash, a mineral left behind when oceans evaporated millennia ago, contains water-soluble potassium, an essential component of fertilizer. Barr has long assisted potash clients in North America, and since 2019 we’ve been playing a key role in developing a commercial-scale potash mine in Morocco—the first on the African continent.
Emmerson PLC is advancing the Khemisset project, situated on a potash deposit that will be relatively easy and economical to mine. Processing the potash, however, will require a change from commonly used methods. Ore in the Khemisset basin contains iron and magnesium, and removing those metals requires an extra processing step. In addition, the ore’s complex chemistry requires different approaches to managing brine.
When Emmerson was first contemplating the Khemisset project, one of Barr’s longtime potash clients recommended bringing in our process engineers during the feasibility study to complement work being performed by Golder. We developed cost estimates, equipment specifications, and facility layouts and drawings for a plant to produce potassium chloride, or muriate of potash. We also conducted tradeoff studies related to process design and high-level costs, which took into account environmental protection—a core focus for our client.
In 2021, Emmerson awarded Barr a contract to complete basic engineering for the plant. Our civil, electrical, mechanical, and process engineers analyzed, modeled, and designed each major process and function of the facility, working closely with the company to meet its funding timelines while optimizing design.
Emmerson is now finalizing permitting and funding for the Khemisset project; construction of the plant and mine is expected to begin in 2023, and potash production in 2025.
For more details, read the related Insights blog post: Designing Africa’s first potash mine.
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About the authors
Daniel Palo, PhD, vice president, senior process engineer, has 25 years of experience with process design, plant improvement, and research and development for processes involving minerals, metals, chemicals, fuels, and manufactured products. He leads Barr’s processing practice and assists clients with all phases of projects, from scoping and prefeasibility studies to plant operations and upgrades.
Nick Sosalla, senior minerals processing engineer, has more than 10 years of experience with mineral processing and chemical engineering. He provides design, mass and energy balance calculations, and capital- and operating-expense estimates for mining, mineral-processing, and industrial-manufacturing clients.
Araina Boyd, minerals processing engineer, has experience in both the consulting and mining sectors. She develops preliminary equipment specifications and major-equipment lists; drafts flowsheets; calculates emissions; writes and reviews reports; and coordinates with vendors.