- Associated Press - Monday, March 7, 2016

HOBBS, N.M. (AP) - A company that operates a crop fertilizing mine near Carlsbad is facing financial problems due to falling prices, causing uncertainty in yet another industry in New Mexico amid an oil and natural gas downturn.

The Denver-based Intrepid Potash Inc. has laid off more than 30 employees in Carlsbad and it has seen its stock value plummet, the Hobbs New-Sun reports (http://goo.gl/WBtm4u).

The company recently reported its third straight quarterly loss and said low potash prices could cause a breach in its loan covenants.

Chief Executive Officer Bob Jornayvaz said in a conference call last week that falling prices per ton of potash mean the company won’t be able to comply with debt covenants revised in January. He said the company is working with lenders on an updated agreement.

“This was an extremely volatile, chaotic quarter,” Jornayvaz said, according to a conference call transcript. “We believe we’ll continue to survive and eventually prosper as a smaller but much more profitable company.”

Intrepid Potash Inc. opened the mine in 2013 near Carlsbad. The company, which billed as the largest potash producer in the U.S., operates two other mines and processing facilities in Eddy County.

Prices of potash, primarily used as a crop fertilizer, have tumbled due to soft grain prices - dropping U.S. farm incomes - bloated capacity and weak currency in importing countries such as Brazil.

Intrepid has more than 850 employees and doesn’t expect to drain its balance this year, Jornayvaz said.

Intrepid said it cut 5 percent of its workforce in early 2016.

Intrepid Potash Inc. officials did not immediately respond to emails from The Associated Press.

The company’s stock dropped 57 percent to 99 cents after last week’s announcement, and bounced even lower later in the week. Jornayvaz explained the plan to recover includes eliminating production of muriate of potash and concentrating on more lucrative sulfate of potash magnesia production by mid-2016.

“The recent series of potash price reductions has created a more dynamic market than we’ve experienced in some time,” Jornayvaz said in a statement.

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