What the company does
The Perth-based company drummed up AU$27.5mln from placings in June and in July said it was in “advanced discussions” to secure a debt funding package aimed at supporting further funding.
Results of a scoping study published in June indicated that Lake Way could produce 200,000 tonnes per year of premium-grade SOP with a mine life of 20 years.
Lake Way would have one of the lowest operating costs for global SOP producers, with estimated free-on-board (FOB) costs of A$264 per tonne.
The scoping study indicated that Lake Way will need A$237mln of development capital
Managing director Tony Swiericzuk, who was appointed last year, has hailed the fundraisings over the last year as putting Salt Lake Potash "on the critical path to enabling SO4 to become the first Australian commercial producer of SOP in a global sector with outstanding potential".
The company will utilise the funds it raised from high-quality investors as it pursues a busy work program at Lake Way and two other lake projects.
Management expect to complete the bankable feasibility study for Lake Way in the third quarter of 2019 which should support project financing.
Lake Way progress
Lake Way is in WA’s Northern Goldfields area near Wiluna, a town featured in Phillip Noyce’s award-winning film Rabbit-Proof Fence.
Lake Way has a mix of tenements — its own Salt Lake tenements which it 100%-owns and the old Williamson open pit ground at Lake Way held by Wiluna gold miner Blackham Resources.
In July 2019, Salt Lake Potash consolidated the tenement package through a sales agreement with Blackham, acquiring a package of tenements and securing access to power and process water rights, providing synergies for the project, including capital and operating cost savings
To help fund the acquisition, Salt Lake will place 10.58 million shares to Fidelity International to raise A$7.4mln before costs.
“This is an exceptional transaction for Salt Lake Potash that will provide significant benefits to the Lake Way project and further support the rapid progress towards first production," Swiericzuk said.
“The acquisition will provide material value through capital and operating savings to Salt Lake Potash and also significantly de-risk the Lake Way project by providing ownership of tenements and further access to key infrastructure assets including water and power.”
First evaporation ponds in action
At the end of July, Salt Lake Potash confirmed it had completed construction of its first two commercial-scale evaporation ponds and has begun pumping of sulphate of potash (SOP) brine.
The Williamson ponds are the first operational-scale SOP evaporation ponds built on a salt lake in Australia, which Swiericzuk has said are an important part of the staged de-risking and development at Lake Way.
Commissioning of the processing plant is expected by the end of 2020, utilising salts from the Williamson Pit brine.
Salt Lake and Blackham's tenements at Lake Way, a brine-lake project once part of the company's wider Goldfields Salt Lakes Project
A Native Title Mining Agreement to provide consent to the grant of SLP’s mining lease and for the ongoing mining operation is expected to be signed “in the coming months”, the company said in July.
The company also expects to receive approval of its related mining proposal and closure plan from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation & Safety during the second half of 2019
Australia's Environmental Protection Agency has also ruled that a formal assessment is not required for SLP’s initial on- and off-lake works.
Beefed up senior executive and project execution teams
Former Fortescue Metals executive of nine years Swiericzuk joined Salt Lake on November 5.
The respected mining engineer has a reputation for building and operating projects and was the general manager of Christmas Creek iron ore mine in the Pilbara region for the major Australian producer FMG chaired by high-profile Australian entrepreneur Andrew Forrest.
During Swiericzuk’s early years at FMG he oversaw the group’s port operations at a key port in the Pilbara region, Port Hedland, as it ramped up from 20 to 80 million tonnes a year.
Swiericzuk took a close look at the company before joining it, saying in October: “A deep dive into Salt Lake Potash’s high-quality technical work, business model and relationships has convinced me that it is easily the best company to lead the development of the sector in Australia.
“Its multi-lake holdings in proximity to the Goldfields infrastructure is paramount and offers great potential to achieve cost savings and economies of scale, as we did in the iron ore sector.”
Processing and NPI director Peter Cardillo, civil project director Lloyd Edmunds and technical project director Stephen Cathcart were also hired in the December quarter and bring with them a wealth of technical, operations, process infrastructure and construction expertise.
Other projects in Salt Lake’s portfolio
Salt Lake’s other two projects are also found in the Goldfields-Menzies region and are Lake Ballard and Lake Minigwal.
A mineral resource estimate is underway for Lake Ballard, 15 kilometres north of Menzies, which has a playa with a 698 square kilometre surface area.
Lake Minigwal in the Northern Goldfields is about 80 kilometres southeast of Laverton, the town once known as the British Flag.
During the December quarter Salt Lake commissioned extensive gravity geophysics over Lake Minigwal’s various branches, as part of a preliminary investigation into the location of the paleochannel and its depth to basement.
The company also has tenements, granted and under application, at Lake Wells, Lake Marmion, Lake Irwin, Lake Noondie, Lake Barlee, Lake Raeside, Lake Austin and Lake Moore in Western Australia.
In the Northern Territory, Salt Lake has the granted Lake Lewis tenement.