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Australian Potash’s Lake Wells Project. Image: Australian Potash

Australian Potash has awarded Pentium Hydro a $13 million contract for bore field drilling at the Lake Wells sulphate of potash (SOP) project near Laverton in Western Australia.

The Vysarn subsidiary will provide drilling, installation and development services on up to 92 brine and process bores, with the 13-month contract expected to be delivered on time by May 2022.

Australian Potash managing director and chief executive Mike Shackleton said the contract allowed the Lake Wells project to move promptly towards first production.

“Securing drill rigs in the current climate is an important step towards us achieving our mid-2023 targeted production start date,” Shackleton said.

“Following the release of the FEED (front end engineering design) summary results we are focussed on maintaining the momentum towards development.”

The 92 identified bore holes were decided on in the FEED summary results, announced earlier this April.

The FEED results helped to optimise the bore field design and allowed Australian Potash to increase the project’s expected output by 20,000 tonnes per annum.

The Lake Wells SOP project is now able to produce up to 170,000 tonnes per annum over a 30-year mine life.

Upon receiving the FEED results, Shackleton expressed great hope on the prospects of the distinctive operation.

“The Lake Wells sulphate of potash project has always been somewhat unique across the peer space for being the only project to be developed with 100 per cent bore field abstraction of brine, with no recharge or rainfall factors included in the largest Australian JORC compliant measured SOP resource of 18.1 million tonnes,” Shackleton said.

“The mine plan uses a mere 24 per cent of this resource over the projected 30-year mine life.”

In further good news for the project, Australian Potash has received Green Loan verification in line with the Loan Market Association.

This indicates that loans provided to Lake Wells will go towards an environmentally responsible and sustainable SOP operation.

“(Australian Potash) is firmly committed to an environmentally sustainable development at Lake Wells, where we will produce high-grade SOP using a high renewable energy penetration rate hybrid-power solution,” Shackleton said.

“Green Loan verification provides assurance to our lenders and broader stakeholder group that we will honour this commitment, adopting a governance and reporting framework in line with Green Loan principles.”