- Associated Press - Saturday, August 9, 2014

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) - A proposed $1.02 billion potash mine in southeastern New Mexico may get a financial boost from Asian investors, company officials said.

Intercontinental Potash Corp. says private investors from China and a bank in Japan have shown an interest in the proposed Ochoa Project, Carlsbad Current-Argus reported earlier this week (https://goo.gl/JSe3fV ). The company wants to develop an underground mine in southern Lea County to extract polyhalite ore to use in the production of potash.

Intercontinental spokesman Randy Foote said he couldn’t name specific investors because the company has signed non-disclosure agreements with “all the major players.” But Foote said he expects the company will continue to raise money for the project through this year and that it may be ready to break ground on the processing plant next year.

“Anybody who raises $1 billion knows it’s a process, it’s not something that you do overnight,” Foote said. “Most of these (projects) take about a year to raise funds.”

The company’s plan calls for a processing plant and would involve the drilling of water wells, the installation of pipelines and the storage of tailings.

Earlier this year, a memo from the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer’s Hydrology Bureau said it could take up to 500 years to replenish the brine water pumped out of a Carlsbad aquifer if the potash mine operates for 50 years.

The memo said the proposed mine southeast of Carlsbad wasn’t expected to affect the city’s drinking water, but it may still have some impact on the underground water source.

Tests showed that if the mine draws 6,400 acre-feet of water each year at the site for 50 years, it would take 500 years for the Capitan Reef aquifer to restore itself, the document said.

The Capitan Reef is the same aquifer that provides Carlsbad’s drinking water, though the potash company would draw its water from the opposite side of the reef.

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