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During Permian time, a broad and shallow inland sea covered much of southwestern United States, extending northward from west Texas into northwestern Kansas. Slow but continual subsidence beneath all parts of this vast Permian basin caused deposition of a thick sequence of Permian red beds and evaporites, including dolomite, gypsum/anhydrite, salt, and potash. Evaporite units are notably thick and laterally persistent throughout the Permian basin. The entire Permian System ranges up to 2,000 m thick in various parts of the basin, and individual formations, consisting mostly of gypsum/anhydrite and salt, commonly are 60-500 m thick. Evaporite deposits are oldest in the northern part of the Permian basin, and they generally are progressively younger toward the south. The site of principal salt deposition during early Leonardian time (Wellington evaporites) was in Kansas and northwestern Oklahoma; it then shifted southward into western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle during late Leonardian and early Guadalupian time (Lower Clear Fork/Lower Cimarron evaporites, Upper Clear Fork/Upper Cimarron evaporites, and San Andres/Blaine evaporites); and finally into west Texas and southeastern New Mexico during late Guadalupian and Ochoan time (Artesia, Castile, Salado, and Rustler evaporites). These evaporites comprise a significant resource for the region: rock salt is produced from dry mines, brine fields, and solar-salt operations at 18 locations; gypsum is mined at 13 sites; potash is produced from 5 underground mines in the world-famous Carlsbad potash district; and sulfur is produced by the Frasch process at one site.
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Permian evaporites in the Permian basin of southwestern United States