The huge potential of Congo potash – by Lawrence Williams ( – July 5, 2013)

The Republic of Congo (ROC), not to be confused with the neighbouring DRC, has the potential to develop into one of the world’s biggest potash miners over the next decade.

For those who are unaware there are two Congos. The former Belgian colony of the Democratic Republic of Congo – the DRC – is the one which is mostly in the news, with its huge and rich base and other industrial metals, gold and diamond resources. However, lying immediately to the west of much of the DRC on the northern side of the Congo river is the former French colony of the Republic of Congo (ROC – also known as Congo Brazzaville to more easily differentiate itself from its neighbour to the south.)

The ROC, like many African nations has had its own share of difficulties since it cast off its colonial yoke in 1960, but these have not been quite as violent as the problems which have continually beset the DRC over the years and there has been a relatively stable government in place under President Denis Sassou Nguessa since a bloody civil war in 1997. While certainly not exactly a model modern democracy, the ROC has been relatively stable for the past decade and President Sassou has won succeeding Presidential elections, although with suspiciously high percentage majorities!

The ROC has so far not unearthed the huge metals riches of its southern neighbour, although it has some latent potential, but does have substantial reserves of oil and gas, the current mainstay of the economy, and there is significant international interest (particularly from China) in developing the minerals sector.

Notably, the country has massive good grade potash deposits which also have the advantage of being relatively close to the coast and there are a number of companies looking at advancing these to production – and most of these seem to have Chinese involvement.

The Congo evaporitic sequence contains the country’s world-class potash resources in the form of carnallite and sylvite. The salt sequence is reportedly some 500 m thick, although it does thin out at the edges of the deposits. It is very consistent.

According to Elemental Minerals, one of the companies interested in developing the deposits, the evaporite sequence of the Congolese coastal basin consists of essentially flat-lying, but locally undulating salt layers of interbedded halite (NaCl), and other higher salts such as sylvite (KCl), carnallite (KMgCl3•6H2O), bischofite (MgCl2•6(H2O)), and minor anhydrite (CaSO4) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2) beds that extend from the onshore Congo Basin north and south to sedimentary basins in adjacent West-African countries, as well as west into offshore regions. Overall there are thought to be billions of tonnes of potash which could be mined by conventional methods and/or by solution mining.

There used to be a significant sized underground potash mine at Holle producing up to 450,000 tonne/year in this area of the ROC, but this was closed after the mine was flooded back in 1977, but the more recent strength of the global potash sector is seeing a huge resurrection of interest in the region..

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