New WA Solar Salt Project to Target Asia-Pacific Chemical Market Growth

Leichhardt Industrials Pty Ltd (“Leichhardt”) today announced its plans to develop a new solar salt operation at Eramurra, 55 kilometres south west of Karratha near Cape Preston Port. Leichhardt is a partnership between an Australian private consortium, Hamburg based industrial salt consultancy ConSalt GmbH and private equity resource giant Resource Capital Fund (“RCF”). The Project is at its earliest stages, with a twelve-month $2M environmental and pre-feasibility assessment program commenced in April 2018.

The $230M Eramurra Industrial Salt Project aims to produce at least 1.83Mtpa of highest-grade chemical salt, for export to the expanding Asia-Pacific chlor-alkali markets. This new world’s best practice solar salt operation is configured to meet the highest environmental standards while promoting recreational usage of the area. Eramurra will create new long-term employment opportunities for the people of Karratha and the Pilbara.

Australia is the world’s largest exporter of industrial salt, utilised to produce chlorine & caustic soda for PVC, polyester, plastic, paper, rubber, glass, dyes and many other industrial products & processes. Australian production is almost entirely confined to the Pilbara coast of Western Australia, characterised by the country’s highest rates of solar evaporation, low rainfall, suitable physiography & Asian market access. Australian industrial salt is mostly bulk-shipped to China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other southeast Asian countries where Australia has maintained its competitive advantage for decades.

Managing Director John Canaris said: “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”.

The Eramurra Industrial Salt Project will utilise natural salt pan areas south of the Forty Mile Beach recreation area, which includes public camping grounds and a boat ramp. Leichhardt has commenced the approvals process for this area which will address community in terms of access, infrastructure, cultural and environmental values. John Canaris said: “Inerrant flexibility in the overall layout has allowed Eramurra to be configured to minimise environmental and social impacts, and guarantee future public access, and we are in discussion with the City of Karratha who manage the area for enhancements to the local foreshore area and its recreational use - Leichhardt is committed to community engagement, social and environmental management”.

Solar evaporation ponds are often designed to promote brine shrimp and fish growth, which in turn attract migratory birds and wildlife. Part of the initial assessment will be to work with the City of Karratha to incorporate these enhancements where evaporation ponds are nearest to areas used for camping, recreation and fishing. Leichhardt’s initial approach will include:

  • Avoidance of the coastal mangrove areas which are an important part of the marine ecosystem;
  •  Working with the local indigenous groups to ensure the cultural aspects are recognised and maintained;
  • Completing environmental baseline studies to the highest standard to ensure effective monitoring;
  • Engaging with the City of Karratha who manage the area, to maintain and enhance recreational usage;
  • Working with existing and future Cape Preston regional stakeholders to share infrastructure as much as possible.

The Cape Preston East greenfield port is an initiative by the Pilbara Ports Authority (“PPA”) and Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation (formerly State Development). Cape Preston is located immediately adjacent to Eramurra providing efficient and direct market access. PPA Director of Port Development Peter King said: “After iron ore industrial salt is the Pilbara’s most important bulk export commodity. The Authority is delighted to see a new proposal for the utilisation of Cape Preston, and we are excited by the prospect of the co-development of the Port area as another successful WA multi-commodity export facility and mainstay source of raw material for the world”.

“The Eramurra Industrial Salt Project will generate full-time sustainable jobs for a locally based Karratha workforce” John Canaris said. “The construction phase will generate work for hundreds of suppliers, and we are committed to utilising local services wherever possible. Most significantly, through our technical partnerships we are committed to bringing the latest techniques and technologies in solar salt production to the Pilbara, for what we envisage will be a world’s best practice, hi-spec, low-cost solar salt operation specifically configured to meet the increasing demand for highest quality feedstocks for export”.

The Yaburara and Martuthunira People -  The Yaburara and Coastal Mardudhunera People are the Aboriginal descendants of the ancestral owners for traditional country. The Yaburara and Coastal Mardudhunera Aboriginal Corporation (“YACMAC”) is the corporate body established to represents the interests of the Yaburara and Mardudhunera People. It is a relatively small organisation with a hundred members. Leichhardt has been engaged with YACMAC which has a long track history of successful negotiation with resource companies in the area.

More about Leichhardt Industrials Pty Ltd: Leichhardt Industrials Pty Ltd is a Perth based private partnership, comprised of highly experienced resource industry professionals and business people. The partnership includes German industrial minerals consultants ConSalt GmbH who have an extensive and successful track history in the design, management and operation of salt production globally. ConSalt has provided technical expertise to the partnership since its inception in 2013, specifically to oversee the design and implementation of this new Australian salt operation to meet new Asian demand.

More about Resource Capital Funds: Resource Capital Funds (“RCF”) was established in 1998 with a mining sector specific investment mandate spanning all hard mineral commodities and geographic regions. Since inception, RCF has supported 169 mining companies, with projects located in 51 countries and across 29 commodities. The sixth fund, Resource Capital Fund VI L.P. (“RCF VI”) with committed capital of $2.04 billion, is now being invested.

Media Contact: John Canaris

John Canaris