14/12/2020 - 12:00

BCI secures $450m loan

14/12/2020 - 12:00

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The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has approved a $450 million loan facility for BCI Minerals’ Mardie Salt & Potash project.

Alwyn Vorster said the loan represented the largest NAIF allocation to a Western Australian-based company to date. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) has approved a $450 million loan facility for BCI Minerals’ Mardie Salt & Potash project.

NAIF is a federal government lending facility that supports projects that aim to boost economic and population growth in northern Australia.

BCI Minerals announced today that NAIF had approved the loan facility for a total of $450 million for its Mardie Salt and Potash project, which involves the development of a large-scale solar evaporation operation on the Pilbara coast.

The loan will be used for construction and ramp-up of the project, as well as associated financing fees and costs, with the facility to have an overall tenor of 15 years from financial close.

BCI Minerals managing director Alwyn Vorster said the loan represented the largest NAIF allocation to a Western Australian-based company to date.

“(The loan) recognises the potential long-term benefits which Mardie will bring to the region, including new port infrastructure available to third-party users,” Mr Vorster said.

“Importantly, the loan will also provide significant momentum for BCI to secure the remaining debt and equity funding components required for Mardie’s development.

“We acknowledge the strong support from various federal and WA state government ministers and departments.”

The Mardie Salt & Potash project was awarded major project status by the federal government in August, following a feasibility study that valued the prospective mine at $1.2 billion.

Development of the project will involve the construction of large ponds and crystallisers over 100 kilometres squared, two process plants and a new port facility for the export of salt, sulphate of potash and other products.

The loan is subject to several conditions, including; completion of other debt and equity funding arrangements; approvals; permits and agreements required for construction and operation of the project; and finalisation of the state government’s consideration of the project and its approval of the funds to be advanced.  

NAIF chief executive Chris Wade said the organisation was delighted to be able to support the development of the project, which, by supplying agricultural and chemical industries across Asia, presented exciting export opportunities.

“Locally, the project will also bring significant economic benefits to the Karratha, Dampier and Onslow areas.”

An independent economic analysis prepared for the NAIF assessment process forecast that the Mardie project would have a peak construction workforce of about 500 people, a permanent operating workforce of roughly 200 people, and would also create additional indirect employment in the Pilbara region.

BCI Minerals said the organisation would also seek to maximise local and indigenous employment and contracting opportunities.

NAIF and BCI Minerals will now work towards completing the facility documentation and satisfying the conditions for the funding.

BCI Minerals anticipates the Mardie project will export 4.4 million tonnes of high-purity salt per annum and 120 kilo-tonnes of sulphate of potash per annum, via solar evaporation of what it said was an inexhaustible seawater resource and a production process driven mainly by natural solar and wind energy.

Kerry Stokes' private company Wroxby Pty Ltd is a 39.6 per cent shareholder of BCI Minerals

At the time of writing, BCI Minerals’ shares were up 5.36 per cent at 0.30 cents per share.

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