EVART — It has taken six years of researching, testing, planning and development, but Ted Pagano said the Michigan Potash Company is getting closer to beginning operations near Hersey.

A geologist and subsurface engineer for Michigan Potash Company, Pagano told members of the Friends of Evart Thursday morning the company continues to work toward restarting potash mining operations at a new production facility at a location near the Cargill plant in Hersey.

Potash is water soluble potassium used for agricultural fertilizer.

"We're still in the permit process right now with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality," he said. "We haven't brought a lot of attention to what we're doing, as it's taken a lot of work to get to this point and nothing is completed or written in stone."

Pagano explained there are only 10 companies providing potash to farmers around the world.

"Potash is a controlled commodity," he said. "You're fortunate that the highest grade of potash located in the world is 10 miles away from Evart."

Pagano showed photos of fruits and vegetables treated with potash and others that were not.

"Potash is essential to produce the best crops," he said. "Potash helps keep the water in the fruit. It's also important as it means that less water is needed for irrigation."

If the company were to continue its plans to restart potash mining operations in Hersey, Pagano explained the initial investment would be around $700 million, with an expansion later for a total of more than $1 billion in all. He added it would double Osceola's County's current industrial tax base of $122 million.

To drill the needed wells, construct the potash and salt facilities and needed infrastructure, 300 construction jobs would be needed and generate around 150 full-time positions, Pagano said.

"We're restarting the work that was done there before — from designing it with better technology, being more environmentally friendly than before and learning from the mistakes made before," he said.

Pagano added the company has leased the mineral rights from surrounding landowners and expects there to be $10 million in royalties the first year.

Pagano gave no timeframe for when work could officially begin.

Other highlights from the Friends of Evart meeting included:

  • Evart Elementary School Principal Sarah Bailey shared about the progress of the Leader in Me program;
  • Sean Galvin spoke about the incentivized mentorship Champions of Evart program and continued work to create an Evart Promise Plus program;
  • Evart City Manager Zack Szakacs shared about the city's progress in Project Rising Tide; and
  • Jim Byrum, of the Michigan Agri Business Association, shared how farmers are facing a tough economy as milk and grain prices are low. He added it has created many challenges to small dairy operations, as well as some opportunities for other, larger operations.