EDITOR: | August 20th, 2013 | 7 Comments

Why BHP sticks with potash project; World’s top graphite resources (at least, according to one player)

| August 20, 2013 | 7 Comments

“Betting on the potential of potash” is the headline in Wednesday’s Australian Financial Review. The newspaper says that BHP Billiton’s decision to triple the stakes at its Canadian potash play is a serious surprise — but one that reaffirms the view expressed by recently appointed CEO Andrew Mackenzie that the Jansen project in Saskatchewan has great potential to be BHP’s fifth pillar, the others being iron ore, oil, coal and base metals (including copper, nickel, manganese and aluminium). This came after the company revealed it would spend another $2.6 billion on Jansen, with Mackenzie making the point that over the next 10 to 15 years another 250 million Chinese will move from the countryside to the cities (with the obvious affect on food supply and consumption patterns). Mackenzie stared down some large shareholders and analysts, including Citigroup, who had argued for a slowdown on potash to conserve cash.

From London, analyst Roger Bade at Whitman Howard noted that the spend would be $800 million a year through to 2016, adding: “The company believes in the long term future of potash and believes the price will ultimately reflect the cost of new supply. In addition Jansen will make the move into expansion projects and be reported on quarterly. BHP is open to being partnered to bring Jansen on stream. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the recovering potash sector, as this news has been overhanging it for some time“.

As the AFR notes, Mackenzie takes the view that further investment in Jansen increases the options open to BHP in that it keeps alive a project into which money has already been poured. Mackenzie sees the importance of a potash project that could have a 100-year life. The company is also signalling it is open to taking on a partner who realises that China, and much of emerging Asia, is about to see an explosion of food demand.

BHP apparently is not overly concerned about present potash prices, nor about the collapse of the Russian-Belarus cartel. The company is determined that Jansen will be able to operate at costs lower than many existing producers — vital if BHP is to stay true to its intention of keeping well away from teaming up with Canpotex.

On the other potash story of the week — The Wall Street Journal report that Indian potash buyers are demanding a 12% price cut, which coincided with news that a recent sale to Sri Lanka had been struck at 22% lower than a potash shipment four months earlier — we turn again to Roger Bade in London. “A 12% discount doesn’t appear to be much and it is encouraging that the Indians are talking again. This gives the impression that the eventual outcome will be in the middle Uralkali-versus-Potash Corp, that is, a 10%-20% price cut, but higher volumes to just below 60 million tonne per annum in the short term”.

GRAPHITE: At the risk of certain readers of this site having a conniption, here is an interesting list compiled by an Australian explorer for graphite, Lincoln Minerals. The company, whose projects are on the Eyre Peninsula in the state of South Australia, plans to be in production by 2015, its first mine (Kookaburra Gully) billed as having premium flake graphite at grades of over 90% total graphitic content without the need for chemical leaching, has compiled a list of the globe’s top known graphite resources.

As I say, don’t shoot the messenger (me); I did not compile this list, I have not verified it, and it is reproduced here purely for the interest of those who follow the graphite scene to discuss or whatever. OK, that said, here are the top projects as classified by Lincoln:

1. Nunasvaara, Sweden — Talga Gold (ASX:TLG)
2. Lac Gueret East, Canada — Berkwood Resources (TSX.V:BKR)
3. Munglinup, Australia — Lithex Resources (ASX:LTX)
4. Balama West, Mozambique — Syrah Resources (ASX:SYR)
5. Lac Knife, Canada — Focus Graphite (TSX.V:FMS)
6. Kookaburra Gully, Australia — Lincoln Minerals (ASX:LML)
7. Koppio, Australia — Lincoln Minerals
8. Campoona Hills, Australia — Archer Exploration (ASX:AXE)
9. Raitajarvi, Sweden — Tagla Gold
10. Kringel, Sweden — Flinders Resources (TSX.V:FDR)
11. Asbury, Quebec — Uragold Bay Resources (TSX.V:UBR)
12. Uley, Australia — Strategic Energy Resources (ASX:SER)
13. Gropabo, Matts Myra & Mansberg, Sweden — Flinders Resources
14. Molo, Madagascar — Energizer Resources (TSX:EGZ)
15. Graphite Creek, Alaska — Graphite One Resources (TSX:GPH)
16. Loharano, Madagascar — StratMin Global Resources
17. Kearney, Canada — Ontario Graphite
18. Bissett Creek, Canada — Northern Graphite (TSX:NGC)



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  • Tim Ainsworth

    Uley is actually owned by the currently unlisted Strategic Graphite Limited, of which SER holds 20% equity. The remaining 80% was distributed pro rata to SER SH’s.
    However news released today:
    Strategic Graphite to restart operations at world class Uley
    Graphite project
     Newly appointed & industry experienced CEO Christopher
    Darby to lead team
     Plans are in place to re-commence operations at the Uley
    Graphite mine into early 2014
     Patersons appointed as Corporate Adviser in relation to capital
    raising and ASX listing
     New ASX listing for Strategic Graphite Limited planned by late

    With a relatively low CapEx required to refurbish & upgrade existing plant good chance Uley could be in production first half 2014.

    August 21, 2013 - 1:36 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Thanks for that. Very helpful — it has been one of those days and I had yet to go through the ASX announcements. Very interesting the early 2014 plan.

    August 21, 2013 - 1:55 AM

    • Tim Ainsworth

      On reflection Robin one of the interesting parts of the listing brief will be the mktg/sales presentation, where do they plan to find the customers for say 10/20ktpa.
      The graphite from Uley has been successfully put to market previously, they seem to now have a good handle on what’s required, and costs, to get it back in production so the last piece of the puzzle is a customer base with the volumes & pricing to make the venture economic.

      August 21, 2013 - 8:30 AM

      • Dr.Copper

        probably best place to go will be to your last supplied as Flinders have done.

        This is not to say they will trust a consistent and reliable
        supply parametre put in place merely by a resumption of production which was more than 10 years ago.

        There’s a saying that you should never re-start a defunct goldmine…. and Mega walked away from that idea.

        August 21, 2013 - 2:33 PM

        • Tim Ainsworth

          Choice of Mega was questionable from the outset, with an office at the back of a suburban funeral parlour and very little substance. Basically I think SER were drawn by their claims of being able to market the product but they couldn’t deliver the basics.
          After granting several extensions SER walked away from Mega, not the other way around, so I wouldn’t tarnish the asset by association.
          Prior customers is a good point but they probably go back closer to 20 years. It will be interesting to see just how far the marketing is developed on the release of the prospectus.

          August 21, 2013 - 4:10 PM

  • ChartTrader

    re Uragold Bay Resources (TSX.V:UBR)
    their graphite resources have been sold
    Uragold Closes the Sale of the Asbury Graphite Property to Canada Carbons

    August 21, 2013 - 7:24 AM

    • Robin Bromby

      Thanks. Obviously the people at Lincoln did not know about that when they compiled the listing.

      Appreciate readers keeping me up to scratch. As a one-man band here in Sydney, it’s hard to keep across everything. So greatly appreciated.

      August 21, 2013 - 5:47 PM

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