New potash mining facility: Creating an economic impact on Evart and surrounding region

Evart Township is one step closer to being home to a brand-new potash (potassium chloride) and salt production plant and processing facility. The Michigan Strategic Fund approved a $225 million bond for the Michigan Potash Company LLC in September 2022. While the idea has been in talks for over 10 years, the conversation on the plans of the Osceola and Mecosta counties facility continues.

Joshua Hundt, Michigan Economic Development (MEDC) executive vice president of strategic accounts and chief projects officer, leads the organization’s efforts to secure business expansion and attraction across the state. Hundt says Michigan Potash & Salt Company is in the stage of finalizing financing for the salt production plant in Evart. 

“The company itself was founded in 2011,” Hundt says of Michigan Potash & Salt Company. “We, at MEDC, have been in conversation with them directly for a couple of years now. Ultimately, they are now in the final stages of getting the financing.”

The facility will be used to extract potash that is 8,000 feet below the surface in a water-cycling process. The potash will be sold for fertilizer, and the salt will be sold for road deicing, water softening, and food-grade needs. Currently, the U.S. imports 96 percent of its 10-12 million tons/year of potash for domestic needs. Within the state of Michigan, we use 250,000-350,000 tons/year of potash, all imported from other areas including Canada. This would be the first potash mine in the state.

A rendering of Michigan Potash & Salt Company's potash and salt production plant and processing facility located in Evart Township. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Potash & Salt Company)The co-product of potash is salt, which is used for food preservation, water treatment, animal feed, deicing, and more industrial needs. Currently, Michigan produces 3 million tons of salt per year. The statewide demand for salt is about 2.2-2.8 million tons per year. This new facility could provide an additional 1 million tons of salt per year, half of which is likely to be exported to nearby states. 

Michigan Potash & Salt Company is a family owned, minority-owned company which controls one of three domestic reserves of potash. “Over the next three years, they plan to hire 129 employees for their facility that will pay about $29 per hour, and would employ more union construction jobs over that three-year construction period,” Hundt says. “As we work to ensure we have the workforce needed for this project, we’ll continue to partner with the local Michigan Works! agency to ensure that the company is able to fill these positions with local residents.”

Chief operating officer of Michigan Potash & Salt Company (MPSC), Aric Glasser, says the project will have a great economic impact on the region. 

“Creating more than 1,600 local, mostly union construction jobs over three years and over 180 full-time ongoing operations positions, the Michigan Potash & Salt Company project represents over a $1 billion capital investment on a 150-plus year resource base – making it one of the largest union-supported economic development projects in the country," Glasser says. "MPSC’s project will also strengthen U.S. food security amidst a global fertilizer crisis driven in part by the Russian invasion of Ukraine."

This local facility could have a huge impact on international business, and would significantly reduce reliance on U.S. imports. Currently, we import 1 million tons of potash from Russia. Combined, Russia and Belarus have 40% of the world’s supply of potash. There is no close substitute for potash when it comes to providing potassium to crops, according to an MSU Economics Impact Study. 

“There is not currently any potash extraction that’s taking place in Michigan, so this is an opportunity that helps, both from a national food security, as well as an economic development opportunity in northern Michigan,” Hundt says. “This project is a great example of how MEDC supports businesses and communities across both peninsulas in the state.”

“Seeing this opportunity for good-paying jobs for Michiganders really helps us be able to see the impact that new economic activity has on supporting the 10+ million Michiganders, and meeting our goal of making sure Michigan is in the top destinations for investment and growth in North America,” Hundt continues.

Given the industrial nature of the facility, there leaves room for environmental and health concerns from local residents regarding the mining. Hundt says those conversations are being had. 

“The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy has been engaged, and the company has received all approvals they would need up to this point on the project,” explains Hundt. “It is important for us, as a state, to make sure we are not only being good stewards of the economy, but it’s also critically important for us to make sure we’re doing that in an environmentally positive way, and a way that’s positive for the residents of the state. Based on the approvals granted so far, we feel comfortable about the overall status of this project.”

MEDC managing director of capital access, Christopher Cook, says the next step past development and funding is approval to start the construction.

From an MEDC perspective, the next step will be a request for an approval of the authorization for the private activity bond,” Cook says, “which we are now targeting our February Michigan Strategic Fund board meeting for that request. Assuming approval by the Michigan Strategic Fund board, that funding would occur shortly after, and that would be one of the final steps in the overall capital stack needed for the construction, which would be up to three years for the total construction of the project.”

Read more articles by Sarah Spohn.

Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.