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Potash in Spain: 100 years of discovery

The discovery of potash in Súria took place in late 1912. This year, 2012, marks the commemoration of the Centennial of the Discovery of Potash in Súria.

IberPotash, now and then


1851. World's first discovery of potash in the Stassfurt mines, Germany.

1912. The discovery of potash in Spain took place in late 1912 in Súria (Barcelona). Its discoverers were Emili Viader and René Macary, who found in Pozo (pit) Salí of Súria a type of salt animals rejected: it had a bitter taste and variable color. The product was analyzed at a French laboratory in Bordeaux and was found to be potash. News of the discovery of potassium chloride in Súria spread throughout Europe, bringing about the arrival of researchers from all over the world who were seeking the valuable natural fertilizer. This phenomenon was dubbed "potash fever" in the Catalonian Basin. Shortly thereafter, Macary and Viader sold their mining concessions to the Compagnie Bordelaise de Produits Chimiques, which in turn sold them to the Belgian company Solvay.

1915. Publication of a Royal Decree whereby the Spanish Government expresses its will to exploit the Spanish potashes and mentions a possible influence on the foreign market.

1918. Approval of a special law – the Cambó Law - that regulates the mining and sale of potassium salts. At that time Don Francesc Cambó was minister of Public Works.

Construction of the first mine pit (Pit I), the factory, and the railroad.

Powerful global economic interests turned around the potash, intent on breaking the German potash monopoly. Upon the discovery of potash in Germany, KALISYNDICAT, a powerful partnership aimed at controlling potash production and prices worldwide, was created. It went from holding three potash exploiting companies in 1862 to 127 in 1913, just as potash fever was erupting in Súria. In 1888, Kalisyndicat created the first potash cartel that fixed uniform prices and production quotas for each of the mines, and in 1942 it was already under full control of the German government.

With the end of War World I, the return of Alsace to France, and the final start-up of the Potash Mines of Súria, the German monopoly ended.

1920. Incorporation of the company Minas de Potasa de Súria, SA (MPS), a company that began the exploitation of the Potassium Catalonian Basin after its discovery and was owned by the company Solvay from its inception until 1982. Construction of the headquarters building begins.

1921. Assignment of the 14-km long Súria-Manresa railway line, built by Minas de Potasa de Súria SA (MPS), to Compañía General de Ferrocarriles Catalanes, the Catalonian railway company. In return, MPS is to receive benefits, compensations, and facilities for the Barcelona-Puerto line.

1922. Start of operation of the potash train.

1923. The Fusteret hydroelectric plant is built.

1924. The steam generators and the big chimney start operating. On August 12, transport of passengers on the potash train line begins. The service was canceled at the end of the Civil War (1939).

1925. Carnallite production begins at a steady rate, processing 80,000 gross tons, equivalent to 5,900 tons of K2O. It is extracted from Pit I ("MASTER PIT").

1933. Sylvite production with 5,800 tons of K2O.

1935. Carnallite production is ended.

1936. The Civil War marks a tragic hiatus in the history of MPS. For three years, all productive activity ceases. The mine and its facilities suffered severe damage. The workforce was 874 workers.

1954. Deepening of pits II and III starts as a preliminary step to the exploitation of Cabanasses.

1960. Start of production at the Cabanasses mine of Súria.

1961. The new power substation of Cabanasses begins operation.

1963. The potash flotation plant in Súria begins operation.

1967. TRAMER (Transporte de Mercancías), a company that manages the transport of potash, is incorporated.

1970. COPOSA (Comercial de Potasas) is created.

1971. Floated salt production begins.

1982. The salt and potash mines pass into public ownership of the State becoming part of the INI. Later, Súria K, SA is created.

1988. The mines of Bages pass into private ownership. The company Iberpotash, SA is incorporated (within ICL).

2011. The commencement of development of Project Phoenix is approved.

2012. Commemoration of the Centennial of the Discovery of Potash in Súria.

1929: King Alfonso XIII visits the mines

On October 2, 1929, H.M. the King Alfonso XIII visited the potash and salt mines of Súria (Barcelona). The monarch traveled by car accompanied by the Duke of Miranda. In other vehicles traveled the minister of the Interior, the Captain-General of Catalonia, the civil governor, and other authorities. The event took place in the framework of the universal exhibitions of Barcelona and Seville.

The city council of Súria welcomed the monarch, who toured the outside and the inside of the mining facilities. Afterwards, a banquet was held at the end of which H.M. the King Alfonso XIII expressed his satisfaction "for having been able to become aware, during the visit to the mines, of the existence of this powerful wealth, whose utilization in the domestic agriculture can pave the road to a magnificent future".

H.M. the King Alfonso XIII added that "fertilization with potassium salts has experienced a huge increase abroad".

The press of the time echoed the news (ABC newspaper, La Vanguardia of October 3, 1929).   

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