An improved approach to characterize potash-bearing evaporite deposits, evidenced in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Kemp, S.J.; Smith, F.W.; Wagner, D.; Mounteney, I.; Bell, C.P.; Milne, C.J.; Gowing, C.J.B.; Pottas, T.L.. 2016 An improved approach to characterize potash-bearing evaporite deposits, evidenced in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom. Economic Geology, 111 (3). 719-742.

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Traditionally, potash mineral deposits have been characterized using downhole geophysical logging in tandem with geochemical analysis of core samples to establish the critical potassium (% K2O) content. These techniques have been employed in a recent exploration study of the Permian evaporite succession of North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, but the characterization of these complex deposits has been led by mineralogical analysis, using quantitative X-ray diffraction (QXRD). The novel QXRD approach provides data on K content with the level of confidence needed for reliable reporting of resources and also identifies and quantifies more precisely the nature of the K-bearing minerals. Errors have also been identified when employing traditional geochemical approaches for this deposit, which would have resulted in underestimated potash grades. QXRD analysis has consistently identified polyhalite (K2Ca2Mg(SO4)4·2(H2O) in the Fordon (Evaporite) Formation and sylvite (KCl) in the Boulby Potash and Sneaton Potash members as the principal K-bearing host minerals in North Yorkshire. However, other K hosts, including kalistrontite (K2Sr(SO4)2) a first recorded occurrence in the UK, and a range of boron-bearing minerals have also been detected. Application of the QXRD-led characterization program across the evaporitic basin has helped to produce a descriptive, empirical model for the deposits, including the polyhalite-bearing Shelf and Basin seams and two, newly discovered sylvite-bearing bittern salt horizons, the Pasture Beck and Gough seams. The characterization program has enabled a polyhalite mineral inventory in excess of 2.5 billion metric tons (Bt) to be identified, suggesting that this region possesses the world’s largest known resource of polyhalite. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution and reproduction in any medium provided that the original work is properly attributed.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0361-0128
Date made live: 14 Apr 2016 13:25 +0 (UTC)

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