One step closer to potash production; Allana Potash granted Mining License for Dallol Project
Exciting news in the potash industry this morning as one of the most advanced-stage potash companies in the world, Allana Potash Corp. (TSX: AAA | OTCQX: AALRF) significantly advances its flagship potash project in East Africa. Allana President and CEO, Farhad Abasov proudly announced the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines has issued a license for its Dallol Potash Project, after receiving approval from the Ethiopian Council of Ministers.
“Allana is proud to have achieved this major milestone in the development of the Project and very much appreciates the extensive work done by Ethiopian government staff and Allana’s consultants and employees in reaching this goal,” commented Abasov. “Allana is now positioned as one of the leading mining companies in Ethiopia and is committed to working with the Ethiopian government, our communities, investors, lenders, and contractors to deliver on the significant potential of Ethiopia’s potash resources.”
Allana’s Mining License was issued after a detailed review by the Ministry of Mines and other Ethiopian government departments of the Project’s Feasibility Study and Environmental, Social and Health Impacts Assessment (ESHIA), which was approved in May 2013 by the Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority and Ministry of Mines.
So what does this latest milestone mean for Allana? With the receipt of the Mining License, Allana now has the required regulatory approvals to complete the development phase of the Dallol Project and move directly to contracting, construction and operations. This is fantastic news for the company, which has accomplished a long list of tremendous milestones, and is approaching the preconstruction period. And the news keeps getting better. Allana’s current key strategic investors are committed to further participation (debt and equity) in the project. Those two world-renowned shareholders — with a combined 17% equity stake — are Boston’s Liberty Metals & Mining Holdings LLC (a subsidiary of Liberty Mutual Holding Co.) and the World Bank’s International Finance group. To date, Allana hss raised over $90 million in equity markets and has sufficient cash reserves to reach the construction stage. Allana’s debt financing process reached a new milestone recently as the company further de-risks the project. The company announced formal mandate letters had been signed between Allana and a lender group — in excess of 65% of total CAPEX financing — consisting of large Development Finance Institutions and Export Credit Agencies from North America, Europe and Africa (the lender group has begun the formal loan assessment preparations and a due diligence review of the project). Negotiations are currently underway with additional strategic and off-take partners.
The robust $642-million Dallol Project stretches over 310 square kilometers and will become the first potash production in East Africa. Work on development is forging ahead and production is set to begin within two years, explains Richard Kelertas, Allana’s Senior Vice president of Corporate Development.
“We are full steam ahead,” says Kelertas. “As a very low cost producer, we are in very good shape and well positioned to get our project fully financed and built.”
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With its low CAPEX and OPEX, Allana’s project is well situated geographically to supply potash buyers in India and China (and all of the markets where potash demand is rising fastest such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Laos) and to address the exploding demand for crop nutrients in the underserved African market where potash consumption, now among the lowest in the world, is slated to increase fastest. With 900 million people currently, the African population is projected to reach 2.2 billion by 2050. African demand for agricultural fertilizers is expected to grow exponentially over the next decade. Industry analysts and experts agree the present demand in Africa for potash should be 3 to 5 million tonnes per year, if the nutrient was applied sufficiently. And there is further upside potential for potash usage; projected to reach 5 to 7 million tonnes per year by 2020, equating to 9% of global demand.
Ethiopia has shrugged off its former image as a symbol of world hunger and is now, ironically, ready to help feed the world. A rising, stable economic powerhouse in both Africa and the world, Ethiopia is among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world; ranking third globally, behind China and India, with a projected annual average GDP growth rate of 8.1%. From starvation to industrialization in two decades, Ethiopia is booming. The country is geopolitically stable and environmentally benign. Agricultural modernization is being fast tracked and massive investments in infrastructure, rail, roads, power, and port facilities are now taking place. There is a rapid shift underway in Ethiopia advancing the country from a subsistence agricultural economy to an export-oriented agricultural/industrial economy. It is important to note that Ethiopia alone will guarantee sales for Allana, which could potentially supply Ethiopia with 250,000 to 500,000 tonnes per year and the rest of Africa with 500,000 to 1 million tonnes per year of potash by 2020.
Potash is an essential, non-substitutable agricultural commodity, needed more now than ever. It’s a multi-billion-dollar global industry and the demand will always be strong (irrespective of the BPC fallout). That said, potash project economics are now more vital then ever before and, as such, only the most profitable projects will survive. Few projects will actually make it to production; however, in my opinion, Allana’s will. The Dallol Project is one the most advanced, strategic and economically robust potash projects in the world.
With mining license in hand, Allana Potash is steadily moving toward pre-construction and is poised to become the lowest-cost source of potash in the world.
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