Sustainable processes at the Mardie salt and potash project

(Image source: BCI Minerals) Jetty at Mardie.
(Image source: BCI Minerals) Jetty at Mardie.

A future tier one solar evaporation project, the Mardie salt and potash project will become the first major salt project developed in Australia in over 25 years.

Owned by Mardie Minerals, a wholly owned subsidiary of BCI Minerals (ASX: BCI), the project will also become the only Australian operation to produce commercially saleable salt and sulphate of potash (SOP) fertiliser.

With its location on the West Pilbara coast of WA, Mardie will harness a natural seawater resource concentrated through solar and wind evaporation. Mardie has the critical characteristics for establishing a large-scale solar evaporation project, including an optimum climate, a large area and minimal environmental and heritage sensitivities.

Since speaking to BCI managing director David Boshoff in January 2024, development has progressed at Mardie.

“Construction has been progressing well, with the ‘salt first’ component of the Mardie project hitting completion of 38.8% (as of March 31, 2024). Significantly, the jetty has progressed to over 1km long, reaching the 41st set of piles and transfer station 2/3 has been completed” he said.

Mining leases for the optimised Mardie project have been granted by the WA Mining Minister, and final approval has been received from the Commonwealth for the illumination management plan.

“Further, the WA Department of Water and Environmental Regulation approved the groundwater monitoring and management plan.”

BCI and Environmental, Social and Governance Reporting at Mardie

Sustainability is a key focus for BCI and recognised as an essential business activity supporting its vision to be a globally significant sustainable industrial minerals business.

Following the creation of its sustainability report in 2022, BCI is continuing to develop its approach to sustainability by improving its processes and the way sustainability matters are implemented, monitored, reported and planned.

“We are committed to the responsible use of natural resources, ensuring fair treatment of all people involved with or impacted by our projects, operations and investment decisions, and the long-term well-being of our environment,” Mr Boshoff said.

“To enable this, BCI has developed five sub-pillars of sustainability: provide a safe environment, harness renewable resources, minimise environmental impact, promote community prosperity, maximise value, and minimise waste.”

(Image source: BCI Minerals) BCI managing director David Boshoff.
(Image source: BCI Minerals) BCI managing director David Boshoff.

Providing a Safe Environment

BCI’s highest priority is on providing a safe and healthy working environment for all its employees and contractors. Throughout FY23, BCI emphasised risk assessment, implemented effective controls and provided comprehensive training and induction programs for its staff.

Notably, there were zero fatalities in FY23 and a total recordable injury frequency rate of 4.1, compared to 6.1 in FY22.

Harness Renewable Resources

Drawing from an abundant natural seawater resource, the Mardie project aims to create sustainable value with over 99% of the energy needed for Mardie designed to come from renewable solar and wind power used for the evaporation process.

Minimise Environmental Impact

To minimise its environmental impact in areas where it operates, BCI prioritised reducing Mardie’s design footprint in the Robe River Delta Mangrove Management Area (RRDMMA) to ensure minimal impact on the function and processes that sustain mangrove habitats.

The design of the footprint in the RRDMMA was reduced from 890ha to 310ha out of a total project footprint of 13,231ha. Under its optimised Mardie design, BCI believes it will be able to construct the project with no direct disturbance to the Mangrove habitats within the RRDMMA.

A ground disturbance permitting system is in place which requires all ground disturbing works to be assessed and approved.

Any ground disturbing works must be reviewed against agreed project footprints, relevant consents and any heritage and environmental requirements that may be in place.

Maximise Value, Minimise Waste

Mardie is expected to become the first Australian salt project that recycles the bitterns from salt operations to produce SOP as a secondary product. SOP production aligns with the WA Government’s long-standing objective for the resources industry to include downstream processing and value-adding in project development.

BCI is also exploring opportunities to create further value by using seawater and bitterns to create other commercial and beneficial by-products.

(Image source: BCI Minerals) Evaporation pond at Mardie.
(Image source: BCI Minerals) Evaporation pond at Mardie.

Promote Community Prosperity

A core pillar for BCI is fostering sustainable partnerships that deliver value and prosperity for regional communities and Traditional Owners of the land and waters where they operate.

“BCI has forged strong relationships with the Mardie Traditional Owners and is committed to maximising Indigenous employment and contracting opportunities per the Indigenous Land Use Agreements,” Mr Boshoff said.

“This enables economic development for Traditional Owners and fosters growth and entrepreneurship within the community.”

Future Operations

Pending final environmental approvals, BCI plans to begin operations and filling evaporation ponds at Mardie during the first half of 2024.

Additionally, the company remains committed to delivering first salt on ship during the second half of 2026.