How Is Potassium Made?

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Potassium is a natural element; therefore, it isn't made. As a highly reactive metal, virtually no potassium occurs naturally in its elemental state. Instead, most potassium is obtained from mines in the form of potassium chloride or sulfate salts. A small amount of potassium that is used industrially is directly isolated from seawater.

Potassium is the seventh most common element in the Earth's crust. Nonetheless, most countries lack large deposits of potassium ore. Over 90 percent of the potassium sold on the international market is mined in one of six countries: Canada, Belarus, Germany, Russia, Israel and Jordan. The vast majority of potassium obtained from these mines is used to manufacture fertilizer. The potash mines in Canada, Germany and Russia are located deep underground. The mines in Saskatchewan alone are thought to contain reserves of potassium ore in excess of six billion tons.

In contrast, Israel and Jordan extract abundant potash from sediment and water siphoned from the Dead Sea; the latter is allowed to evaporate, leaving potassium salt behind as residue. Because water levels in the Dead Sea have been falling for several decades, pressure is mounting in both countries to scale back the operations of their fertilizer plants.