AN Australian mining company will produce an essential ingredient in fertiliser production that could soon help ease the pressure on local fertiliser supply and pricing.
Perth-based Arafura Resources is advanced with its plans to establish a new mine 135km north of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.
The project will dig rare earths and phosphate from the ground and produce phosphoric acid from a downstream processing plant.
The acid is a co-product of Arafura’s processing plant and an important product in the fertilisers’ manufacture.
In Australia, phosphoric acid use is confined to phosphate fertiliser production for use in broadacre cropping.
Arafura plans to supply the product to local fertiliser manufacturers to assist with production on farms mainly in WA, South Australia, Victoria and NSW.
The company’s senior directors believe the mine’s byproducts could form a vital local resource in tough seasons of short fertiliser supply.
An application for a mineral lease has already been lodged with the Northern Territory Government.
It covers the deposit area and includes land set aside for infrastructure including on site processing and storage facilities.
Testing is currently under way to construct the mine in 2010 and start producing phosphoric acid and rare earths in 2011.
About 850,000 tonnes of ore a year will be mined from the pit, reaching a depth of about 75m, a relatively small mine in comparison to other sites.
Despite its size, the mine’s products could have a big influence on agricultural production in Australia.
Arafura Resources managing director Alistair Stephens said the Nolans rare earth project was good news for Australian farmers because it would help to ease the pressure on local fertiliser markets.
"As a local indigenous supplier of phosphoric acid we feel our project will be very important for the Australian domestic agricultural market," Mr Stephens said.