Orica’s Investor Day, taking place last week, highlighted potential growth areas in one of the company’s less-publicised ‘verticals’, its Chemicals business.
Mining, Quarry & Construction and Digital solutions often steal the headlines in quarterly updates, but Adam Hall, Group Executive & President of Asia & Chemicals, showed there is plenty going on within the company’s fourth vertical.
This business, which covers the fields of ore processing, chemical stabilisation and recovery & treatment, strengthens Orica’s presence across the mining value chain, having a strong alignment with its global footprint and understanding of customer needs, the company says. It also acts as a complementary component of Orica’s “new solutions offerings”.
Orica’s current exposure is to leaching agents and emulsifiers, with cyanide making up its biggest product today.
As one of the largest producers of sodium cyanide for mining, Orica delivers the leaching agent in briquette form in circa-1 tonne boxes that are easily containerised, or within an Orica-designed Sparge isotainer system, or in liquid form via purpose-built iso tanks suitable for safe road or rail transport around the world.
It relies on the Yarwun, Gladstone Cyanide Manufacturing Facility in Queensland for this supply, which has an annual capacity of 95,000 t/y and is compliant with ISO9002 and the International Cyanide Management Code. This facility is complemented by the company’s sodium cyanide transfer stations in Peru, Ghana and Malaysia.
Hall was positive about potential growth opportunities in the cyanide space, explaining demand for cyanide was expected to outpace the predicted growth in gold ore treated to 2026 as the complexities involved with treating orebodies continued to increase.
He said the Yarwun facility had great brownfield growth opportunities around the site, with the company evaluating potential expansions in the region of “high single digit” or “low double digit” percentages.
Hall was equally positive about cyanide retaining its presence in the gold leaching process, saying that, while substitution questions continued to come up, the realities associated with such a transition meant it was infrequently feasible.
“There is one major mine that has switched away from using cyanide into a different reagent,” he said. “That cost them north of $100 million, and our understanding is they would not necessarily do it again. Also, that specific mine has a certain lithography that lent itself to using that reagent.”
Hall said Orica’s emulsifiers – which allow it to differentiate its explosives products through maintaining the stability of the mixture – represented “a small but mighty part” of the company’s product suite. He saw potential growth opportunities for emulsifiers, which he said contained the “secret sauce for emulsification”.
Outside of these two Orica mainstays, Hall highlighted the potential for Orica to play in both flotation and solvent extraction markets as part of growth opportunities that added up to A$23 billion ($16 billion).
In flotation, collectors, frothers and flocculants are integral to optimising the process. The same can be said for solvent extractants in the SX space.
“We see all of these as potentially interesting for Orica,” Hall said. “These are all big fields…but each of them has something we could potentially partner or bring to our clients, and something we will be looking to do over the next five years or so.”
Partnerships could potentially see Orica team up with big chemical players that have a by-product or comparatively small value stream coming out of an integrated facility where Orica could bring its “deep understanding of what the miners need and how we can deliver against that using the products that are produced”, he explained.
This could see Orica act as an agent, an offtaker, or purchaser of the by-product production unit.
As with all other Orica verticals, the Chemicals business will be looking at any potential bolt-on to the emulsifier and cyanide offering as a way to influence more of the value chain, ensuring changes made up- or down-stream provide value throughout the full flowsheet.