Sausalito News, Volume 28, Number 42, 12 October 1912
San Francisco—Are the desert valleys of Inyo and San Bernardino counties to become the source of the potash supply of the United States? That the question is an important, one for the state is evident when it is considered that $20,000,000 worth of potash is used annually in the country and the exclusive source of the supply at the present time is in Germany. The federal government has sufficiently interested itself in the question of determining the existence of potash in commercial quantity and form in the United States to have appropriated $40,000 for research work, the greater part of which is being done in the southwestern part of the state and the adjoining section of Nevada.
Hoyt S. Gale, who is in charge of this work under the United States geological survey, has had a boring made in the Carson desert which is now down 1000 feet. He is now planning to make a survey of Death Valley and Searles Valley, known as Borax flat in California.
Practically all of the saline lands, where the presence of potash is strongly indicated, are already in private ownership, so that the exploration work in California cannot be made on government land. But the government considers the establishment of the potash industry in the country a matter of sufficient importance to undertake the work of proving the presence of potash. The Death Valley lands are all taken up, part being in the ownership of the Standard Oil, part owned by “Borax” Smith and part by associates of Julius Raphael.
At the same time work is being done in extracting the potash from kelp found in the sea along the southern coast of the state, which has met with some success.
The Great importance of potash commercially, and its extensive use in the United States in many industries, has led the government to take up the work of determining its presence in the desert beds. The potash is found in solution. In the German fields it was at a depth of 1600 feet. The surface brine in parts of Death Valley has been found to carry a commercial percentage of potash. The owners of the Searles Valley field are working on a method of extraction, and the government is also devoting its attention to this phase of the problem. But it is from the results of the deep drilling in the saline beds by the government that it is expected the question will be answered whether California is to add the potash industry to the list of its developed natural resources and supply the United States with potash.
The ebook Searles Potash Lands written in 1915 gives a great history of the companies that were involved in the struggle to develop potash production in Searles Valley.