Salazar seeks to quash decades-long dispute between potash and energy players

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar hopes to bring an end to a protracted battle between developers of oil and natural gas and potash miners in New Mexico with the issuance of a new plan on Monday to divvy up extraction zones.

Bloomberg reports that Salazar's plan outlines the creation of "drilling islands" in the southeast of New Mexico which will permit the simultaneous development of oil, gas and potash.

The south-east of New Mexico is home to the USA's richest potash reserves and accounts for three quarters of all potash mined in the country. Disputes over extraction rights are long-standing and date back to the 1930's, however, as the region is also host to abundant oil and gas deposits.

Potash miners contend that the extraction of oil and gas has a ruinous effect upon the quality of the key fertilizer ingredient, leading to fraught legal battles between the industries over development rights.

Salazar's says the new plan will bring an end to these disputes and permit the simultaneous development of all three resources via the creation of "drilling islands" and attendant buffers zones which ensure that oil and gas extraction does not have a deleterious effect upon potash deposits.

"This comprehensive strategy will allow us to move beyond years of disagreement and litigation between the energy and potash industries and provides a balanced approach that will strengthen New Mexico's economy," said Salazar.

Salazar first announced the draft proposal for the establishment of drilling islands and the simultaneous development of oil, gas and potash back in July, with experts noting that new extraction technologies had rendered the plan technically feasible.

Image of Ken Salazar courtesy of DemConvention2012 via Youtube