Salt Lake Potash Ltd (AIM:SO4, ASX:SO4, OTC:WHELF, LSE:SO4) is moving towards first SOP delivery as it works through Stage-4 of its load commissioning process for the Lake Way process plant near Wiluna in Western Australia.
The SO4 operations team, together with consultants from the plant designer and component manufacturers have been systematically working through the plant to ensure each unit is working within design parameters and the plant chemistry is established.
The company has also announced plans to implement a revised ramp-up strategy to enable more salts to precipitate before commencing continuous harvesting activities.
There is no anticipated impact on production levels in FY23 and beyond, with full production run-rate from primary salts still anticipated in the June 2022 quarter.
Delivery first SOP
SO4 managing director and CEO Tony Swiericzuk said: “The entire SO4 team is committed to the success of the Lake Way project and has been working tirelessly through the harvest salt pond management system and plant commissioning challenges over the last few weeks.
“We are disappointed these challenges have pushed out our expected ramp-up profile, however, the project fundamentals remain attractive.
“I am grateful for the support and patience of our shareholders and our lenders as we work towards delivering first SOP and positive cash flow.”
Process plant commissioning continues
Construction and practical completion of the Lake Way process plant have been finalised with GR Engineering Services handing over the plant in late June.
Each of the 34 process units in the plant has been individually commissioned and the SO4 operations team is now working through the ‘Stage 4’ load commissioning process.
COVID-related border restrictions have impacted the travel arrangements of key commissioning personnel, as well as affecting the timely transport of certain commissioning supply items, impacting the commissioning schedule.
The commissioning process has involved calibrating and fine-tuning several mechanical components in the plant, including crushers, screens, cyclones, thickeners, centrifuges, control valves, agitators and pumps, as well as the electronic control systems.
More recently work has focussed on the calibration of the flotation circuit to achieve the designed waste mass pull.
‘Batch trials’ each using 500-800 tonnes of low-grade feed salt have been run, with mass-pull performance achieving variable results.
The company continues to work with the flotation circuit vendor and design engineer to bring performance up to modelled targets and expects the issue to be resolved this quarter.
Revised ramp-up strategy
The revised ramp-up strategy involves suspending the initial plant feed program following the processing of the first 90,000-110,000 tonnes of harvest salts, to enable more salts to precipitate before commencing continuous harvesting activities.
As such, forecasted SOP production for the financial year 2022 has been reduced and the company will require further funding.
Discussions have commenced to address the issue and the market will be updated once the talks are completed and agreed.