On the occasion of its double jubilee

65 Years of Potash Engineering Made in Erfurt and 25 Years of ERCOSPLAN

the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies, which is headquartered in Erfurt, organised an International Symposium on the topic

The Potash Industry in the 21st Century
Exploration, Mining, Processing and Disposal of Resulting Residues

from 08 to 10 June 2017 in the Congress Center at the Messe in Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia.

The event was held under the patronage of the Thuringian Premier, Mr Bodo Ramelow.

More than 400 participants from 21 countries and 6 continents, with high-ranking representatives of fertiliser producers from Germany, Canada, Belarus, Russia, Jordan and Israel, representatives from the mining and environmental authorities of various countries as well as private and institutional investors, attended the event – a clear show of appreciation for the work done by the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies, for which the staff, management and shareholders are very grateful.

Almost five years ago, there was a similar event, which also attracted a high level of national and international attention back then. The engineers and scientists in Erfurt would like to build on this. Much has changed on the international potash market since then, some even fundamentally, while others have remained the same as they have been tested and proven in potash fertiliser production for decades. After the middle of the second decade of the 21st century – after more than 150 years of production history – the potash industry is facing, not for the first time, great challenges. These challenges were often discussed during the three days, especially during the symposium on Friday: both the new challenges as well as innovative approaches to mastering such challenges were examined, whether during the exploration or development of the potash deposits, the mining and processing of potash or the disposal of the resulting solid and liquid residues. The participants also took note that in spite of new approaches to research, residue-free potash fertiliser production is not possible, but in many places and often in a cooperative effort by producers together with independent consultants and engineers – such as ERCOSPLAN – the search for further technical possibilities to reduce the quantities of residues even more in the future continues. Striking the right balance between ecology and economy as well as fulfilling social responsibility at the same time, i.e. being able to establish solutions that are practical and sustainable in the long term, has a long tradition in the potash industry. Like the event five years ago, this year’s International Symposium has also been able to make a small contribution to this.

The Icebreaker Party

The festivities were opened on the evening of 08 June 2017 with the Icebreaker Party in the Congress Center at Messe Erfurt. The culinary highlight of the evening was an ox from Holzhausen, which lies at the foot of the Wachsenburg. It was slowly roasted on a spit at a low temperature. The evening was musically accompanied by the Kaffeehaus- und Salonensemble Rudolstadt. Close to 300 guests enjoyed meeting industry colleagues again or making new acquaintances over a glass of wine from the Rheingau. After the Steigerlied, a miner’s song traditionally sung at midnight, a tram took the guests back to their hotels.

The Symposium

On the morning of 09 June 2017, the musicians of the Bleicheröder Bergmanns Blasorchester greeted the over 430 participants in front of the Congress Center at Messe Erfurt. Punctually at 09:30 AM, the symposium began with an opening ceremony. After the opening address by the managing director of the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies, Dr Henry Rauche, the Thuringian Premier, Mr Bodo Ramelow, patron of the International Symposium, spoke to the participants. This was followed by a welcome address by Mr Hartmut Kiessling, Head of the Thuringian Mining Authority. The opening ceremony ended with variations of the Steigerlied, a birthday present that was composed especially for this double anniversary by Conrad Haase from Rothenstein.

As a small gesture of appreciation for his tireless commitment to the potash miners and potash regions in the state of Thuringia, Dr Rauche handed over a little present to the patron and explained the background for the selection of the present as follows:

“Kieserite-bearing hartsalz from the Hesse Potash Seam and sylvinite and carnallitite from the Thuringia Potash Seam of the Unterbreizbach Mine in the Werra Potash District – both a blessing and a curse for the potash miners!

A blessing for potash fertiliser production, which makes its contribution to feeding the rapidly growing world population! A blessing with grades of over 30%, more than half of which is KCl. A blessing is also the Kieserite, the MgSO4 – the basis for the production of the coveted sulphate-based fertilisers and numerous specialty products, which gives both German potash producers several unique selling points in the highly competitive global potash market.

A curse nonetheless also because the decidedly complex composition of the potash salts requires an elaborate processing route, which constantly requires adaptation to the new potash salt qualities as they are found in the natural deposit. And finally, it is a curse to some also because the largest percentage by mass cannot be used as fertiliser or as by-products and needs to be disposed of as solid or liquid residues.

A blessing in particular for the Werra Region, which has been thriving on potash mining for more than 100 years! Today, 4,500 direct employees work in the mining and processing of White Gold as well as in environmental protection in the largest German potash plant. Within and beyond the borders of our Federal State, more than 16,000 citizens owe their livelihood completely or mostly to these potash salts! There is no doubt – above all, it is a blessing to have sustainable access to such regional resources.

Dear Premier, dear Bodo Ramelow, please accept this small but heartfelt token of our gratitude for your patronage of our event, but much more for your constant commitment to the potash industry, in particular in Thuringia! With the potash miners in the South Harz and Werra Potash Districts and in the entire Motherland, you have “a stone in the board” (you are in their good books) – now no longer only proverbially!”

After the opening ceremony, 35 presentations by representatives of potash producers, equipment suppliers, shaft sinking companies, mining and environmental authorities, junior mining companies and other industry experts followed in plenary sessions as well as in four parallel sessions on the topics: exploration, conventional underground and solution mining as well as processing of potash ore, use of secondary components as well as the disposal of solid and liquid residues and environmental protection in the potash industry. These topics were delved into more deeply in the exhibition comprising more than 30 posters and technical exhibits.

In the final plenary session, the success story of potash engineering made in Erfurt was described from the “grandfather” as well as the “grandchild” perspective. In the closing address, Dr Rauche also spoke about the future of the company:

“65 Years of Potash Engineering Made in Erfurt – now Potash Engineering Made in Erfurt could soon retire, as the statutory retirement age for those born in 1952 is 65 years and 6 months. The employee Potash Engineering Made in Erfurt could start drawing his old-age pension on 01 January 2018 without deductions and go into retirement. This will not happen! Potash Engineering Made in Erfurt is a quality concept that you can count on even in the future! Please allow us to continue to work together with you in mastering the challenges of the mineral salt industry in the Motherland as well as beyond, in the whole wide potash world!”

With this, the symposium came to a close and the guests travelled with the tram to Dorint Hotel am Dom Erfurt to end the day on a celebratory note.

The Convivial Get-Together

In front of Dorint Hotel am Dom Erfurt, the Bleicheröder Bergmanns Blasorchester musically announced the start of the festive evening reception. Many toasts were initiated in celebration of the successful symposium and the sounds of the Walkin’ Jazz Quartett ensemble were being thoroughly enjoyed. In a relaxed atmosphere, the – despite it being Friday evening – over 300 guests had in-depth professional discussions and cool drinks until the early morning. Punctually at midnight, Glückauf der Steiger kommt sounded again in old tradition.

The Excursions

On 10 June 2017, 3 technical excursions with a total of 160 participants took place. The excursions led to production sites of the potash industry in Central Germany, which are closely linked to the history of German potash fertiliser production and thus also to that of the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies: the Werra Potash District, the South Harz Potash District as well as the North Harz Potash District and Stassfurt.

The staff, management and shareholders sincerely thank all participants, presenters and co-authors who have enriched the International Symposium with their presence and their contributions. A big thank you also goes out to all who have enthusiastically played a part in the preparations for and implementation of this anniversary event!

The ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies Today

In the more than six decades of company history, engineering services for a total investment volume corresponding to approximately 15 billion EUR were performed, all for the potash fertiliser industry. About 60 percent of these projects were actually realised and ERCOSPLAN as well as its predecessors were also involved in construction supervision, site management and project management. In addition, engineering work of varying scopes was carried out for specialised mining tasks, repositories for radioactive wastes and the underground storage of toxic industrial wastes in evaporite rock.

ERCOSPLAN is active as a consultant and engineering firm for the potash producers themselves and for investors in new potash projects, as well as in its role as an independent expert for mining and environmental authorities or also for financial institutions and supervisory bodies of international financial trading places and national or international courts of arbitration. In recent years, the annual turnover volume of the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies was between 16 and 24 million EUR, whereby the proportion of income generated abroad varied between 65 and 85 percent.

Today, ERCOSPLAN offers competent consulting services and innovative engineering for the mineral salt industry – all from one source: from the initial project idea to efficient production – for a sustainable use of resources, including environmental protection.
Today, the ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies has about 160 employees worldwide, of which more than half still works at its birthplace in Erfurt, the state capital of Thuringia. Branches and subsidiaries in Russia, Thailand and Brazil serve these regional markets.

ERCOSPLAN Group of Companies
Arnstaedter Strasse 28
99096 Erfurt
Tel: +49 361 3810 500
Fax: +49 361 3810 505