Centrex Metals remains ‘quietly optimistic’ about financing its Ardmore phosphate project, with hopes its timing will dovetail with improved prices, according to executive chairman Graham Chrisp.
In the meantime, the company is looking for contractors for a three to four-week mining campaign in the first quarter the next year.
It plans to mine 25,000 tonnes to provide material for prospective customers and for Centrex to investigate a new process that may act as an adjunct to the business.
It recently launched a Rights Issue that may raise up to $2.866 million, which would help fund the Ardmore mining as well as exploration on other projects.
The company is ultimately looking to produce about 800,000 wet tonnes of phosphate rock per annum from the Ardmore site, south of Mount Isa.
Centrex last year completed on-site assembly of a 70-tonne-per-hour start-up plant, designed to expand to a 140tph throughput, but put the brakes on the project in November.
Mr Chrisp said the main reason the project had not progressed as quickly as it should was lack of project funding.
He said the Centrex team was having discussions on an ongoing basis with various groups as it worked to endeavour to secure funding.
“We’re quietly optimistic about eventually raising the finance and we’re all working very hard to be ready when we raise our finance, but the COVID-19 pandemic definitely continues to be a major issue for us,” Mr Chrisp said.
Phosphate market conditions were swinging in Ardmore’s favour, he said.
“Indications are phosphate prices will start to rise and we believe that by the time we get into full production the prices will be acceptable,” Mr Chrisp said.
While he could not confirm a project timeline without having secured financial backing, Mr Chrisp said Centrex was hoping to be in commercial production in the second half of 2022
Centrex is also investigating the potential for commercial quantities of rare earth elements to add value at Ardmore. Mr Chrisp said the company planned a sampling program in the existing open pit before drilling.
“The rare earths are part of the phosphate deposit, but I have asked that work be carried out on the surrounding rock as well so we can gauge whether it may be transitioning to the host rocks,” he said.
Mr Chrisp said the Geological Survey of Queensland had recently started investigations to improve the scientific understanding of REE association with phosphate deposits including Ardmore.