Australian Potash close to sulphate of potash milestone at Lake Wells

ASX-listed Australian Potash says it is poised to become the country’s first producer of sulphate of potash (SOP) from field evaporated salts after its pilot plant facility received 3 t of the final potassium-rich harvest salts from the Lake Wells pilot evaporation programme.

This announcement, made at the end of December, should lead to the company producing SOP from the project, in Western Australia, this month, according to Managing Director and CEO, Matt Shackleton.

“One area of focus for Australian Potash’s project team over the past 12 months has been to develop and refine the site evaporation model,” he said. “Understanding the chemistry of the salts that are produced through the natural evaporation cycle is crucial to planning both the commercial scale development and SOP processing strategies.”

“In January 2019, we plan to produce Australia’s first field evaporated SOP, which will be of enormous value to Australian Potash and our MOU (memorandum of understanding) offtake partners, as we will be able to detail the chemical composition of the SOP we can produce.”

Shackleton said 2019 was set to see the commissioning of a greenhouse SOP-MOP (muriate of potash) trial managed by the University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment. “The trial will also be supported by field trials across at least five sites, examining the effect of SOP versus MOP,” he added.

Australian Potash expects to publish a definitive feasibility study on the Lake Wells potash project, around 500 km northeast of Kalgoorlie, in the second half of 2019. This will build on the results of a scoping study, which showed a stage one production rate of 150,000 t/y of “premium-priced” SOP (years one to five), a stage two production rate of 300,000 t/y of “premium-priced” SOP (years six to 20) and a pre-production capital expenditure of $135 million for stage one and $125 million for stage two.