Sunny Pilbara helps salt

THE resource-rich Pilbara district of WA offers great investment opportunities, with its ideal location and great sunny weather.

Taking advantage of these natural resources is a relatively new project by Onslow Salt Pty Ltd, which has established its $100 million solar salt operations near the port of Onslow.

This will be underpinned by new technology to enable the company to reduce costs of production and increase its share of the WA export market, increasing the state’s salt output from 7.5 million tonnes to 10 million tonnes annually.

Onslow Salt general manager Ron van Velzen said some of the technology was different.

“For example, the layout of the evaporation ponds has been designed in such a manner that truck haulage is minimised in comparison to other fields,” he said. “The Onslow solar salt field is a very compact project.”

The project, comprising 80 square kilometres of condenser and crystalliser ponds, virtually surrounds Onslow, with the treatment plant and jetty located a short distance south west of the Pilbara port, about 300 kilometres south west of Karratha in the state’s North-West.

Construction on the field began in 1997 and, when fully operational, the project is expected to produce 2.5 million tonnes per annum of high grade industrial salt for export to overseas markets, mainly to chemical industries in South East Asia.

At full production this is estimated to be worth $50 million annually.

Perth-based contractor, Barclay Mowlem Construction, has commenced building the salt treatment plant and infrastructure that will include offices, workshops, jetty, ship loader, wash plant and stacker.

The $38 million contract includes earthworks and construction of at least two conveyor systems.

Dredging to clear a 10 kilometre channel to allow 45,000 tonne vessels to dock at the loading jetty was completed in February.

The operation, undertaken by Dutch contractor Van Uroorde Acz, involved two dredges working flat out for three months.

Earthworks began in July 1997 and the installation of three collector pumps for a seawater pumping station was completed in the November.

The first salt is expected to be available for shipment in the year 2000.

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