MANAGEMENT changes continue at Kalium Lakes Ltd (KLL) following the company's displacement in May as potentially the first Australian commercial producer and exporter of Sulphate of Potash (SoP) fertiliser.
On Monday KLL advised the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) one of the company's co-founders and its managing director and chief executive officer Brett Hazelden had resigned and left KLL effective from July 24.
Another co-founder, Rudolph van Niekerk, who stepped down as an executive director and left the board at the beginning of May but remained KLL's chief development officer, has been appointed interim chief executive officer, KLL said.
It advised the ASX it has started "a process, with the assistance of third-party advisers, to review the board and management composition and structure".
A metallurgist with 20 years' experience in project management, engineering design, project management and mine operations who previously worked for Rio Tinto, Fluor, Newcrest Mining and Iron Ore Holdings, Mr Hazelden has guided KLL and its Beyondie SoP project since both were created in 2014.
He teamed with Mr van Niekerk, an engineer with more than 15 years' experience in project and business management who had worked for Ausenco, Anglo Gold Ashanti and BC Iron, to try to turn an investment opportunity spotted by Pilbara cattleman Brent Smoothy into a commercial first to benefit both Australia's agriculture and balance of trade figures.
As previously reported, Mr Smoothy, who established a helicopter mustering and mining services company in Newman, learned of the potential to produce SoP fertiliser from hypersaline brine beneath outback salt lakes while ferrying geologists out to Gina Reinhart's Roy Hill mine site.
From geologists' descriptions of what to look for, Mr Smoothy recognised the potential of a string of salt lakes on Kumarina pastoral lease, 160 kilometres south east of Newman, one of several pastoral leases he held.
Mr Hazelden and Mr van Niekerk were enlisted to help develop the Beyondie SoP project based on the Kumarina salt lakes.
Until February, when a $61 million shortfall in capital needed to get the Beyondie project into production started to be identified, KLL had been projected to begin commercial production of SoP fertiliser by the end of this year.
A successful $19m institutional share placement and $42m entitlement issue covered the shortfall but saw KLL's share price plummet from trading above 0.50 cents before February 24, when KLL's shares were voluntarily suspended from trading, to 16c when share trading resumed on June 1, which angered many shareholders.
Also, with a timetable revision to accommodate logistical difficulties in getting German-built processing equipment into the Little Sandy Desert and assembled, KLL's first commercial production has been put back to about a year from now.
It is likely Salt Lake Potash (SO4) will be the first Australian SoP fertiliser producer and exporter into commercial production - sometime in the first quarter next year if promised environmental approvals are on time - with its fast-tracked Lake Way project near Wiluna.
In April, before the capital shortfall and production start up delay was officially announced, KLL appointed former corporate banker and agri-banking specialist Dale Champion as a non-executive director.
Mr Champion helped create Commonwealth Bank Australia's Specialised Agri Solutions agricultural banking platform and helped Elders Ltd transform its financial services business.
At the beginning of May, KLL added Mr Smoothy, its biggest private shareholder, to the board as a non-executive director.
It also added Mark Sawyer, co-founder of its biggest institutional shareholder Greenstone Resources, also as a non-executive director.
KLL chairman Mal Randall thanked Mr Hazelden for his contribution to the beyondie SoP project.
"Mr Hazelden has made an enormous contribution during the past six years and he leaves the company in a strong position," Mr Randall said.
"On behalf of the board and everyone at Kalium Lakes I thank Brett for his tireless efforts to ensure the success of the company he co-founded and I have no doubt he will be recognised as a pioneer in the Australian SoP space.
"The board continues to focus on achieving the goal of delivering high quality Australian SoP to the Australian agricultural sector."
Mr Randall said interim chief executive officer Mr van Niekerk "has played a vital role in the rapid development of KLL and both his energy and determination to build a world-class project that will deliver long-term value for our shareholders remains undiminished".
Local production is expected to see use of SoP fertiliser in Australia jump from about 40,000 tonnes a year to about 70,000t and global exports by at least five WA companies aiming to produce salt lake SoP fertiliser, generate billions of dollars in export revenue.