Potash firm in national first
Australian Potash is poised to become the nation’s first producer of the high-value fertiliser.
The Matt Shackleton-led company announced in December that three tonnes of potassiumrich harvest salts from its Lake Wells pilot project, 100km northeast of Laverton, arrived in Perth for processing into sulphate of potash.
The SOP trade samples will then be verified as part of continuing talks with two potential Chinese offtake partners.
The news represents the conclusion of a pilot evaporation project at Lake Wells, with Australian Potash now turning its attention to completing a definitive feasibility study on the project by mid-next year.
Lake Wells sits on a paleochannel containing potassiumrich brine, which Australian Potash plans to extract using bores and then evaporate using ponds. The salts are then separated and purified into sulphate of potash via a simple processing technique.
The former gold explorer, previously named Goldphyre, has delineated 65km of paleochannel at its Lake Wells tenements.
Australian Potash in 2017 completed a scoping study, which put a $160 million cost on developing Lake Wells, based on an initial 150,000tpa project.
Mr Shackleton believes Lake Wells is uniquely placed because of its proximity to a rail line at Leonora, which is 280km away by road.
The projects of some of the company’s rivals are considerably more remote, meaning transport costs are likely to be higher.
Australian Potash also has plans to cannibalise the 230,000tpa domestic market for the lower-value fertiliser, muriate of potash, used by local broadacre crop farmers.
The company has commissioned the University of WA to compare SOP and MOP on broadacre crop yields and quality.
Farmers generally recognise the advantages of SOP over MOP, but use the latter because the former is prohibitively expensive.
But Australian Potash believes it can produce SOP much cheaper than the imported product, making it a preferred fertiliser for Australian farmers.
The company is also exploring the selling of the SOP by-products.
Magnesium sulphate is used as lower-grade fertiliser in some countries while magnesium chloride has road-surfacing applications.
Australian Potash is one of a handful of companies vying to become the first of a new crop of WA sulphate of potash producers.
The Brett Hazelden-led Kalium Lakes released a bankable feasibility study for its project in September.
Australian Potash’s Matt Shackleton.