Third WA salt mining project signals revival

A new salt project has been announced for Karratha and Cape Preston, bringing Western Australia’s number of prospects to three.

Leichhardt Industrials’ $230 million Eramurra salt project has been undergoing pre-feasibility study (PFS) since April and aims to produce up to 1.83 million tonnes a year (Mt/y) of high-grade chemical salt for the Asia-Pacific market.

The project is expected to use natural salt pan areas south of Forty Mile Beach as a source for its production. The project’s $2 million PFS is funded by mining-focused RCF Opportunities Fund.

It is the third salt project to be announced in WA in the past two years, following K+S’s Ashburton project in 2016 and BC Iron’s Mardie project, which completed PFS earlier this month.

With all three projects in concurrent development following a lengthy period of salt mining inactivity, the news suggests a resurgence in interest for salt mining, driven in part by Asian demand, which is expected to increase from 155Mt/y to 213Mt/y in the next decade. Chlorine production for the Chinese market is also expected to rise, from 28Mt/y to 42Mt/y in 10 years.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of industrial salt, non-edible varieties salt used for products such as chlorine, caustic soda, polyester, plastics, and many other products.

Market reporter Roskill estimates a 26Mt/y shortfall in Asian salt supply by 2027, over three times Australia’s total production.

Leichhardt managing director John Canaris commented, “The Asia-Pacific chemical markets form the epicentre for global growth in the chemical salt trade. Despite being heavily reliant on Australian production, there has been virtually no new development for decades.

“We see strong demand growth, equivalent to at least double Australia’s current production by the time Eramurra is scheduled for first production.”