New Zealand firm plans to mine rock phosphate from seabed

27 September 2012 13:17  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Plans to mine high-grade rock phosphate from a seabed near New Zealand's South Island are gathering pace after the firm spearheading the project revealed on Thursday that it expects to begin mining operations in late 2014.

Chatham Rock Phosphate Ltd (CRP) holds an exploration licence for a 4,726sq km (1,825 square miles) area known as Chatham Rise. The mineral-rich zone is believed to contain significant seabed deposits of rock phosphate and other potentially valuable minerals such as potash.

CRP plans to raise New Zealand dollars (NZ$) 12m ($10m) through a listing on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) to support the project – which is situated around 450km (280 miles) east of the city of Christchurch.

CRP expects to submit an application for a mining licence in the next few weeks. Earlier this week, CRP shareholders approved Dutch dredging operator Royal Boskalis’ request to take a 20% equity stake in CRP.

Discovered in the 1950s, recent geological surveys indicate Chatham Rise holds around 100m tonnes of rock phosphate about 350-450m below the surface. CRP expects to extract up to 1.5m tonnes/year from the site.

New Zealand currently imports around $91m of rock phosphate a year from Office Cherifien des Phosphates (OCP) in Morocco. According to research commissioned by CRP, the Chatham Rise project will completely replace these imports and boost New Zealand’s rock phosphate exports by $190m a year.

CRP managing director Chris Castle said the company expects to list on the TSX before the end of 2012 and will then focus on obtaining mining and environmental permission ahead of the initial production launch in late 2014.

“The project will reduce imports and increase exports of rock phosphate,” he said. “It will also mean we reduce commodity price risk, foreign exchange fluctuations and security of supply from politically unstable countries. Not only are there significant economic benefits, there are also strong environmental advantages.”

($1 = NZ$1.21)

By: Richard Ewing
+44 208 652 3214

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