Emmerson Plc, a Moroccan focused potash development company has provided an update for its 100% owned Khemisset Potash Project in Northern Morocco, which demonstrates clear progress towards delivery of this world class project.
- Multiple workstreams in progress to further de-risk the project and provide confidence in the ongoing project finance and due diligence processes.
- Permitting process on track, with main permits targeted to be in place in 1H21.
- Investigation of options for staged development to reduce upfront capital costs and provide financing flexibility.
- Engagement with potential strategic partners, debt providers and anchor investors proceeding well.
Emmerson CEO, Graham Clarke, commented: “This is now a pivotal time for Emmerson as we continue to make excellent progress with the delivery of the Khemisset Project and move closer to construction. The team continue to add value and the ongoing workstreams shall enhance what is already a world class project.”
In setting out to define, design, permit and build the Khemisset Project, Emmerson is driving towards meeting the company vision of “be-ing the first and leading potash producer in Africa”. Africa is the continent expected to benefit most from increased food production in the medium term, both as an engine of export and to keep track with the needs of its fast-rising population. Many stakeholders will gain from successfully delivering this project.
The company has great respect for its host country, Morocco, which has welcomed significant Foreign Direct Investment in recent years and is demonstrating a policy of encouraging independent operators in the mining industry with generous fiscal terms and a clear permitting system. The country itself is supporting a successful push into increasing agricultural production with its Green Morocco agenda. The annually increasing imports of potash required mean that Emmerson is well positioned to play an important role in this area of economic development.
The company values are summarised by the phrase ‘doing the right things and doing them in the right way’ so Emmerson is committed to bringing positive impact to local stakeholders, particularly the direct effects of the project and the mitigation of negative outcomes. The underlying belief is to consider wider benefits to the society and recognise that effective inclusion of the community, partners in the value-chain, and the broader range of stakeholders ultimately leverages sustainable benefits for the project and the related entities. This is done through new jobs, development of infrastructure, and the mining project being a catalyst for overall development in the region. The benefits that the project will bring were recently confirmed in the socio-economic study.
The team that has been working on the project have achieved exceptional progress but as the project moves towards construction new and additional skills will be required to ensure the speed of progress is maintained. The process of building the team has commenced and will continue over the coming months to ensure all the appropriate roles are covered, but as has been the case it is intended to keep the team lean with the roles filled by committed and talented people.
A detailed risk analysis has been completed to identify the areas that need further work to mitigate the risks and prepare the project for funding due diligence. This work is now being completed and guides the priorities for expenditure – using existing funds to maximise impact and to be fully prepared for a high level of due diligence from funding partners.
Workstreams that have commenced using the existing funds include geological work that will prepare for and finalise the scope of general site investigation and de-risking of the declines, a further seismic survey and additional drilling to further prove out the early mining blocks. Ventilation modelling, cuttability testing and a technical review of the mine plan are being undertaken and further process work is also underway. Where necessary, independent experts have been engaged.
Work is currently being done to confirm the opportunities for phased development of the project which will present an advantage in financing talks. The options being assessed have the potential to materially reduce the upfront capital cost with the flexibility around potentially phased development meaning financing can be considered at different levels. Furthermore, because the valuable product off-take has not yet been allocated, in a potash market dominated by a handful of majors, this independence of supply is a major attraction to various potential partners.
The company is engaging with external consultants to further investigate the potential for producing potassium Sulfate (SOP). Work is on-going towards delivering a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) to outline the economics of this alternative and confirm the potential for significant value to be added to the project. The scoping study on the SOP project indicated a post tax NPV of US$411 million with average post tax free cash flow of US$70 million/y.
The strategy is still in place for marketing the de-icing salt, which is a by-product of mining the potash. The target market for this salt is the US, which is a large consumer. This additional income stream will effectively reduce the cash cost of producing the potash, so it is an important aspect of the project when in production. The company is continuing to investigate and develop this significant opportunity for adding value to the project. The PFS assumed that 1 million t of de-icing salt would be sold with this element of the project having a post tax NPV of up to US$133 million. The project can potentially produce up to 4.5 million tpy of salt leaving considerable scope for an increase in the value generated by the sales of salt.
A mining consultant has been engaged to investigate an expansion of the mineable potash resource. The aim of this is to secure a much longer mine plan, rather than an increase in the production rate, which would be helpful for all stakeholders in the medium and long term.
The permitting process remains on track for completion the of ESIA in the coming weeks with submission of the application in 4Q20 and successful granting of the permit in 1H21. The decision was made to produce an environmental survey that is much more robust than the minimum standard required, at a level set out by the IFC Performance Standards and Equator Principles.
The company is currently investigating the opportunity to speed up the process of securing the mining permit to ensure that this is successfully granted in 1H21 along with the environmental permit.
The Moroccan mining ministry and other relevant authorities are proving to be helpful in dealing with the permitting process, providing confidence that Emmerson will successfully achieve the target of having both the environmental and mining permits in place during 1H21.
Strategic partners and financing
Engagement with potential strategic partners, debt providers and anchor investors has been proceeding well. There are multiple opportunities being investigated and due diligence processes are now underway.
Additional advisors assisting with this process include Sender International. The company appointed Shore Capital as joint broker to enhance its capital markets exposure, with an emphasis on bringing some institutional shareholders onto the register.
Read the article online at: https://www.worldfertilizer.com/project-news/15092020/emmerson-provides-khemisset-potash-project-update/
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