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Explorers Move Forward as Global Phosphate Appetite Rises

Resource Investing News
Explorers Move Forward as Global Phosphate Appetite Rises

Demand for phosphate is expected to climb from 203.8 million tonnes in 2016 to an estimated 268 million tonnes by 2024.

The global phosphate market has been impacted by dwindling supply as a result of China cracking down on pollution and questionable mining practises, making it an ideal time for phosphate miners and developers outside the Asian nation to assert their role in the space.

Two such companies are Avenira (ASX:AEV) and New Zealand explorer Chatham Rock Phosphate (TSXV:NZP), both of which are steadily advancing their respective phosphate projects.

Africa-focused agricultural mine developer Avenira has this week moved closer to expansion at its Senegal-based Baobab phosphate project, following the release of a positive feasibility study.

The newly released study projects that the proposed Baobab high-grade phosphate rock mine will have a concentrate product capacity of 1 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa), and “confirms the technical and financial robustness of a long-life operation.”

The project’s probable ore reserve is pegged at 39.3 million tonnes with an 18.9 percent phosphorus pentoxide grade. The feasibility study is based on an open-pit strip-mining design, with a conventional flotation and magnetic separation ore processing plant operating at 2.9 Mtpa.

“The just-completed Baobab phosphate project feasibility study clearly demonstrates the project’s strong technical foundation and compelling financial returns, with cost-effective strip-mining and processing techniques delivering a high-grade premium quality product,” Louis Calvarin, CEO and managing director, said in the company announcement.

Avenira isn’t the only phosphate company expecting 2019 to be a banner year.

Chatham Rock Phosphate, a phosphate developer focused on its New Zealand project, expects 2019 to bring steady demand for agricultural products.

“Over time the planet’s population will continue to grow […] and you use 10 times more phosphate for high-protein food. If you go from vegetable protein to meat protein the amount goes up,” Chris Castle, Chatham’s CEO and managing director, told the Investing News Network. “So I expect overall the demand for phosphate to go up.”

Chatham is in a unique position compared to other phosphate developers and miners around the globe — the phosphate the company plans to produce will be very low in cadmium, which Castle foresees being in even greater demand.

“For our particular rock phosphate, because it’s low cadmium [demand] will move up even more,” he said.

Castle was in attendance at this year’s Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada conference in Toronto to present at the undersea mining forum, discussing the benefits and challenges of underwater resource extraction and offering project updates.

The New Zealand developer has reapplied for an environmental permit in relation to its phosphate project. The company had previously applied for the permit that was denied.

“We expect to be able to put together a much better [application] this year and we are very confident that it will be granted,” he said.

Developing phosphate projects outside of China, the US and Morocco — the three largest producers — will be crucial in the years to come as the population demand from around the world continue to increase.

“Phosphate prices are generally moving up, but our particular rock phosphate is in a niche part of the market anyway, and we expect those to move up over time as well,” Castle added.

Demand for phosphate is expected to climb from 203.8 million tonnes in 2016 to an estimated 268 million tonnes by 2024.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Georgia Williams, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

Editorial Disclosure: The Investing News Network does not guarantee the accuracy or thoroughness of the information reported in the interviews it conducts. The opinions expressed in these interviews do not reflect the opinions of the Investing News Network and do not constitute investment advice. All readers are encouraged to perform their own due diligence.

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