Australian mining company Centrex Metals has partnered with CDE Meta to deliver a state-of-the-art wet processing plant, currently under installation at the company’s Ardmore site, that will produce phosphate concentrate, a sought-after commodity in the agricultural industry. Located south of Mount Isa in North West Queensland, Centrex Metals’ Ardmore Phosphate Rock Project focuses on processing one of the world’s few remaining undeveloped high-grade phosphate rock deposits.
Phosphate rock is main source of phosphorus, an essential ingredient to stimulate healthy plant development in agriculture. Prices are forecast to continue to rise until 2023 as supply begins to tighten and production costs increase. According to Fertilizer Australia, the industry association representing manufacturers, importers and distributors of fertiliser, from 2002 to 2017 average annual sales of fertiliser reached 5.4 Mt, of which approximately half is manufactured in Australia.
Expected to be commissioned in the second half of 2019, the start-up CDE phosphate washing plant will wash, scrub and de-slime free-digging ore to produce premium 35% P2O5 and ultra-low cadmium phosphate rock concentrate to be used in the manufacture of phosphoric acid. It will progress to full-scale development in 2021. The modular plant has a capacity of 70 t/h and has been designed to accomodate the expansion of the plant in phase two which will double the scale of the operation to process 140 t/h, equivalent to 800,000 wet tonnes per annum. During phase one, the start-up plant will provide up to 30,000 t of wet concentrate to a number of Centrex Metals Ltd customers.
Adam Holland, Head of Mining at CDE, explains the benefits of the CDE solution: “This 70 t/h solution, created in collaboration with Centrex, is part of a two-phase project. The start-up plant comprises the first phase and has been carefully designed using CDE’s unique modular offering in order to facilitate the simple and cost-effective transition to a 140 t/h plant in phase two.
“CDE’s modular approach solved many of the challenges presented by the remote location of the reserve,” explained Adam, “providing the flexibility required to protect that initial investment when moving from start-up to full scale plant in 2021. This was essential for Centrex Metals to gain the necessary return on investment to make the project viable.”
To alleviate challenges presented by the remote location and its restricted access to water supplies, CDE is also supplying its innovative AquaCycle technology, a high-efficiency water management system which recovers up to 90% of the process water for immediate recirculation in the system. The bespoke solution designed and commissioned by CDE has supported Centrex Metals Ltd to reduce its pre-production capital costs by 13% due to key design changes and equipment selection.
Simon Slesarewich, CEO at Centrex Metals, said: “This is an exciting development for Centrex and we look forward to commissioning of the start-up plant on site. Since acquiring the Ardmore project in 2017 we have focused on producing high-quality phosphate rock concentrate to deliver this vital commodity for agriculture in Australia, which is presently heavily reliant on imports. Following a thorough feasibility study, we expect to produce 776,000 t of premium grade phosphate rock concentrate, which is equivalent to 800,000 wet tonnes per annum at the target shipping level of 3% moisture.
“To deliver this target over the estimated 10-year lifetime of the mine, we required a reliable and resilient wet processing solution to remove the fine gangue after the high-grade ore has been crushed to meet sizing specifications. Our research showed that CDE could deliver a solution that fully met our requirements.” He continued: “Trial mining and production will enable the company to demonstrate the quality of the Ardmore product and further advance the project with offtake partners in the Asia-Pacific region that is forecast to see increased growth with this quality of material.”