APC Director Rhett Brans (far left) handles a sample of 98% pure SOP produced at the pilot processing plant in Perth.

Australian Potash makes high quality potassium salt

Australian Potash has hit a major milestone with the manufacture of high grade sulphate of potash, or “SOP”, at its pilot processing plant in Perth that exceeded its previous expectations of product quality.

This comes just weeks after the first raw salt products were transported from the pilot pond network at the company’s Lake Wells SOP project, located about 180km northeast of Laverton in the Goldfields region of WA.

Preliminary analysis of the 65kg of product produced in the first production run indicates a SOP with purity of 98%.

Australian Potash is targeting to produce 250kg of high quality SOP from the first 3 tonne batch of raw potassium rich harvest salts.

Managing Director Matt Shackleton said: “APC adopted a primary focus on the chemistry of the salts we can produce at Lake Wells very early on in our program. It gave us confidence, therefore, to not only achieve this significant Australian milestone but to now see that the salts we produce at Lake Wells are of the highest quality.”

“Combined with what is now a proven processing pathway to high-grade SOP, APC’s Lake Wells Potash Project’s superior logistical advantage driven by proximate rail and port access and the low-risk brine abstraction model our geological setting affords us, gives us even more confidence we will be able to deliver a low-cost product for the competitive world market. We have access to rail, and do not have to use trenching to abstract the potassium brines.”

He added that the company plans to use the SOP produced at its pilot plant in a research program that will further define its agronomic benefits in WA soil profiles.

Australian Potash holds a 100% interest in the large Lake Wells SOP project and completed a positive scoping study into the venture in 2017.

That work outlined a staged project development, whereby the company would produce 150,000 tonnes of premium SOP per annum in the first 5 years and then ramp up to 300,000 tonnes per annum for at least another 15 years after that.

The project area currently contains a mineral resource estimate of 14.7 million tonnes of contained SOP, with just over 86% of this material reporting to the indicated category, from which SOP ore reserves can be delineated.

At a SOP price of AUD$795 per tonne, the project generates a life of mine annual operating pre-tax cashflow of AUD$118m.

Pre-production CAPEX expenditure for the first stage is estimated at AUD$175m and AUD$163m for the higher-volume second stage of project development.

Australian Potash is also progressing its DFS, which is expected to be released in the latter half of 2019.

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