Environment
Resource Efficiency

Responsible handling of mining residues

As a supplier of mineral products, K+S generates liquid and solid mining residues. We make great efforts and use state-of-the-art processes to keep the environmental impact of our production as low as possible.

Holger Riemensperger, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Efficient and innovative utilization of natural resources is the focus of our Research and Development. We make great efforts to keep the environmental impact of production as low as possible.
Holger Riemensperger, Chief Operating Officer (COO)
Liquid residues

Saline wastewater

Water is a very important resource for K+S. In many processes, we use water of various qualities. We require water in mining and extraction at specific deposits, in production and in the application of certain products, e. g. in agriculture. The K+S Group strives continuously to minimize the unavoidable impact on nature that is associated with the extraction and processing of raw materials. Our endeavour is to keep water-related impacts to a minimum, while also ensuring the efficient use of water.

Saline wastewater

Continuous reduction of saline impact

Potash mining water protection 05
The KCF plant at Hattorf

The extraction and processing of our raw materials as well as the depositing of residues in the potash industry are associated with the generation of saline wastewater. K+S is working intensively on the implementation of measures to reduce the saline impact on water bodies. These include measures to cover the tailings piles as well as the commissioning of the kainite crystallization and flotation plant (KCF plant) at the Hattorf site of the Werra plant in January 2018.

The KCF plant alone reduces the proportion of saline water by a further 20 percent. As stipulated in the management plan and program of measures for salt of the Weser River Basin Community (FGG), the main focus is on storing saline solutions underground and covering tailings piles to significantly reduce the volume of runoff in the medium and long term.

Goals

Our goals in the area of resource efficiency

In the area of resource efficiency, K+S has set itself the following goals by 2021 and 2030 respectively:

  • From the end of 2021, K+S will no longer inject saline wastewater underground in Germany.
  • In Germany, additional 500,000 m3 of saline process water from potash production is to be reduced annually by 2030. This reduction will be in addition to the volumes generated by the KCF plant at the Werra site and excluding the reduction arising from the shutdown of production at Sigmundshall in 2018.
Solid residues

Measures for environmentally friendly tailings piles

The reduction of tailings piles and prevention of solid residues is a Group-wide goal at K+S. Solid residues accumulate in mining during the extraction and processing of potash crude salts. Our tailings piles operations comply with the respective site conditions, while minimizing the environmental impact through continued technological development.

Monitoring

Measurement and monitoring of potential impact

Comprehensive monitoring programs measure and monitor the potential impact of tailings piles on water, air and soil. The resulting data generated is always available to the licensing authorities.

Furthermore, regular inspections are conducted to monitor tailings piles operations. The authorities are given detailed information about the planning and implementation of measures.

 

Compensation and replacement measures

Added value for plants and animals

oak alley in the Malchustal
Oak alley in the Malchustal

Expansions of the existing tailings piles are necessary to safeguard potash production in the long term. Extensive compensatory and replacement measures are planned in connection with the tailings pile expansions. The compensatory measures include long-term projects to create new habitats for flora and fauna or enhance existing ones. Wherever possible, reforestation will also be carried out in areas deemed to be of poor quality from a nature-conservation perspective to conserve usable agricultural areas.

Extensive species protection measures are implemented and new habitats are created in adjacent areas. Disused medium-sized old tailings piles are successively covered as part of our strategy to prevent or reduce long-term impacts on nature and the environment.

Covering of tailings piles

Tailings piles coverage to reduce saline wastewater

tailings pile sigmundshall hero 16:9
View from the green top of the tailings pile down to the plant Sigmundshall

Covering and planting greenery on the tailings piles is essential for reducing saline wastewater in the future. If the tailings piles are not covered, the saline wastewater runoff caused by rainfall has to be collected and disposed of. Planting greenery on the piles significantly increases the evaporation capacity of the surface, reducing the tailings pile runoff by up to 80 percent.

Goals

Our goals in the area of resource efficiency

In the area of resource efficiency, K+S has set itself the following goals from or by 2030:

  • From 2030 on, K+S will be able to use three million tonnes of residues per year for purposes other than increasing the size of tailings piles.

This will be possible by an alternative use of the tailings pile material and avoidance of residues by increasing the raw material yield.

  • By 2030, we aim to cover additional 155 hectares of tailings pile surface area, further reducing or preventing tailings pile runoff.

This involves covering tailings piles that will be added to the current cover (approx. 70 hectares). In 2030, we will therefore have covered a total of 225 ha of tailings pile area. The covered tailings pile area refers to the tailings pile surface area relevant for the reduction of tailings pile water.

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