February 14, 2013
Christine Lieberknecht, Thuringia’s Minister President, paid a visit to the Werra potash plant in the Hesse-Thuringian potash district today at the invitation of Norbert Steiner, the Chairman of the K+S Board of Executive Directors. Her visit to the Unterbreizbach site (Wartburgkreis) focused not only on the extraction and processing of the site’s own raw materials as an important basis for a modern industrial society, but also on the positive development of the Thuringian site and the securing of the bases for sustainably successful potash production in the region.
During a tour of the plant facilities, Ms. Lieberknecht informed herself, for example, about the modern processes involved in fertilizer production and the advanced construction measures under way as part of the water protection projects. The Minister President showed herself impressed by the challenging technical demands and the dedicated work of the employees.
Norbert Steiner stressed: “K+S is a reliable and important partner of Thuringia. With our more than 1,000 employees, we are one of the biggest employers in the western part of the Free State of Thuringia.” Additionally, about 750 employees from Thuringia work at the two potash sites of the Werra Verbundwerk in Hesse. With around 120 trainees from Thuringia, at the Werra plant, K+S offers young people from the region attractive career prospects in a sector with a future. The high business tax income and wage tax income of about € 20 million per year also demonstrate the great significance of the Company in the region. With the Merkers Adventure Mine, K+S too offers an interesting tourist attraction, which draws more than 80,000 visitors every year.
K+S has consistently modernised and expanded the Unterbreizbach site since the merging of the West and East German potash industries in 1993. Steiner: “We have invested almost € 350 million in Thuringia since the merger, because from the outset we had every faith in the future viability of this site.” The investment projects in this period included, among others, modernisation and improvements in efficiency enhancements, tapping into raw material deposits, measures for water protection and underground waste reutilisation.
K+S has also achieved great success in the reduction of production residues at the Unterbreizbach site. Thus, since the end of the 1990s there has been a change in the method of processing so that solid residues are transferred to underground dome caverns as hydraulic backfilling. This method of disposal only exists at this site, due to its favourable geological conditions, and even does away with the need for creating a tailings pile. In this way, it has proved possible to reduce the occurrence of saline wastewater by over 80%. Since 2010, the saline wastewater that cannot yet be avoided in production is disposed of in Hesse within the framework of the cross-federal border wastewater network and thus easing the Werra from the previous discharge of wastewater from the site.
Thuringia also profits significantly from the implementation of the € 360 million package of measures on water protection, which K+S began in autumn 2011. Thus, the facility for cold preliminary decomposition in Unterbreizbach, which is currently under construction, is an important prerequisite for the complete reutilisation of the process wastewater from the site as of 2014, so that from this point in time the discharge or injection of saline wastewater from Unterbreizbach will no longer be necessary.
“We will also continue to work intensively to minimise the inevitable interventions in nature as much as possible. However, we also expect that others will meet their responsibility of securing sustainable production in the Hesse-Thuringian potash district,” Steiner went on to say. “We are committed to the region and want potash mining to have a future here. That is our corporate responsibility and we take this seriously.”
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