Kalium Chemicals first began production and sale of potash in Saskatchewan in 1964 at Belle Plaine, west of Regina. Using the solution method, Kalium Chemicals retrieved salt deposits up to a mile below the surface by injecting water into the deposits and pumping the dissolved potash to a surface refinery and cooling pond. Still in operation today, the Belle Plaine mine is considered the world’s lowest-cost potash mine, producing high-purity white potash for use in industrial products such as water softeners, alkaline batteries, and food sweeteners and additives. Although large deposits of potash were discovered in Saskatchewan in 1943, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that serious exploration was undertaken. International Minerals and Chemicals (IMC) of Chicago became the first company to mine potash in Saskatchewan, opening its first of two underground mines at Esterhazy in 1963. Production at Kalium Chemicals’ solution mine in Belle Plaine and at Noranda Mines’ potash operation at Colonsay, southeast of Saskatoon, also commenced in the early 1960s. By 1996, following a series of acquisitions and mergers, all four Saskatchewan mines had come under one operator, IMC Kalium, the potash unit of the American fertilizer giant IMC Global. In 1999, IMC Kalium was renamed IMC Potash. Today, IMC Potash is the world’s largest producer and seller of potash for industrial and agricultural uses.