German salt and potash miner K+S has acquired mining licences for the Ashburton salt project.
On the back of this acquisition it has also begun planning the construction of a solar salt production facility near Onslow, in Western Australia.
K+S is planning production as early as 2022, with early capital estimates for the project forecasting expenditures of around $350 million.
The acquisition is part of the miner’s wider Salt 2020 growth strategy, and the company’s expansion in to Asia Pacific, with the licences representing the first step in to Australia for the business, joining other salt producers like Rio Tinto – which produces salt at Dampier – and Mitsui, which also has Onslow salt operations.
“We want this project to give a boost to our planned expansion into the Asian markets. We see big potential there, and want to sustainably participate in the expected growth there in the future. The purchase of the licenses is the foundation to achieve this,” Mark Roberts, the board member responsible for the K+S Group’s Salt business unit, said.
K+S plans to produce around 3.5 million tonnes of solar salt annually from the project, which will likely create 75 new, fulltime jobs in the region.
The salt will be used in the chemical industry.
The German firm is preparing its EIS and carrying out a feasibility study on the project, with approvals expected to take three years, and final decisions on the solar salt production facility slated for 2019.