Phosphate rock for the production of superphosphate fertiliser may soon be supplied from a domestic source, as Aussie miner Centrex advances its Ardmore project, located near Mt Isa.
Australia and New Zealand imports 1 million tonnes of phosphate rock to produce single superphosphate (SSP) in four production facilities in Western Australia, Tasmania and Victoria.
Other phosphate fertiliser products, diammonium phosphate and mono-ammonium phosphate (DAP and MAP), are manufactured with local supplies from Incitec Pivot’s Phosphate Hill mine, some 70 kilometres from Ardmore.
There is a global glut of phosphate, with cheap new supply coming into an oversupplied market.
But an uncertain SSP supply chain is significant motivation for a new local mine.
The old mainstay mine for Australia on Christmas is nearing depletion and to date China, which mines to satisfy significant domestic demand, has produced lower-quality phosphate.
Morocco lays claim to about three quarters of global phosphate reserves and some recent export shipments to New Zealand and South Africa have been held up at foreign ports. Liberation movements from native peoples have lodged legal challenges over shipments mined in Moroccan-claimed territory in western Sahara.
A blockage in the phosphate supply chain could force Australia away from the raw material and into more costly SSP imports.
Centrex has listed the mineral resource at Ardmore at 12 million tonnes of direct shipping grade ore (29% P2O5).
The company aims to make a first shipment by 2019 to supply a significant portion of phosphate for Australia’s SSP demand, with an eye to exports to New Zealand, India and Indonesia.
Centrex chief executive Ben Hammond said Ardmore boasts several factors which could help make the Ardmore mine competitive with the cheap global market, with a near-surface, flat deposit conducive to efficient open cut mining techniques.
Earlier this month Centrex announced progress at Ardmore, with completion of bulk sample drilling to define the resource.
“Centrex is committed to moving Ardmore into production as quickly as possible to reduce Australia’s reliance on imported phosphate rock,” Mr Hammond said.
“It’s great that within just a couple of months of acquiring the project, we already have a bulk sample for testwork to finalise the project design and be able to meet customer product sample requests.”