BLM Sacrifices Labyrinth Canyon Area for Fertilizer Exploration – Another Reason to Protect Greater Canyonlands!

ÒSÓ Curve in Green River, Proposed BLM Wilderness, Utah     Labyrinth Canyon
The Green River in Labyrinth Canyon. Copyright Tom Till.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently gave the green light to American Potash, a subsidiary of a Canadian mining company, to explore for potash in the Labyrinth Canyon area (we blogged about this proposal in June, 2013) .

In short, the BLM’s decision allows the company to drill core holes to explore for potash (an ingredient in commercial fertilizer) on slickrock domes and canyon rims above the Green River’s Labyrinth Canyon. The project will necessitate widening and upgrading vehicle routes and constructing several new routes across the desert to allow access for drill rigs and other drilling equipment. Three of the four proposed core drilling sites are within the Greater Canyonlands region and on lands proposed for wilderness designation under America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act.

As the BLM corrects its flawed management plan, exploration decisions should be deferred

The BLM has acknowledged that its current management plan for this area (a product of the Bush administration) failed to correctly identify areas where oil, gas and potash development should occur. The agency is in the midst of taking a closer look at where such development should occur in order to correct its past mistakes.

The BLM should have deferred its potash exploration decision until it completed its review process, especially since the new plan can consider, among other things, closing the Labyrinth Canyon area to potash leasing and development.

Implosion of international potash cartel brings uncertainty

The price of potash tumbled from record highs earlier this year as the Russians pulled out of the Belarusian potash cartel. Maybe the depressed prices from the “fertilizer wars” will have a chilling effect on the company’s recruitment of financial investors and its plans for potash development in canyon country. Stay tuned.