Trigg Mining Limited (ASX:TMG) CEO and Managing Director Keren Paterson discusses the global demand for potash, the difference between sulphate of potash and muriate of potash, and the company’s flagship project at Lake Throssell in Western Australia.
Melissa Darmawan: Thanks for tuning in. I’m Melissa Darmawan. Here to talk to us today about Trigg Mining (ASX:TMG) is Managing Director Keren Paterson. Keren, nice to meet you.
Keren Paterson: Nice to meet you too, Mel.
Melissa Darmawan: It’s great to have you in the Sydney studio. For those tuning in for the first time, can you give us an overview of the company?
Keren Paterson: Well, Trigg Mining is listed on the ASX, code TMG. Our projects are in Western Australia, about 170km east of Laverton, primarily on the Outback Way, which is being upgraded to be a transnational route. The projects are all about sulphate of potash, which is a really important potassium fertiliser for food security. Where we’re at, we made a discovery, not yet 12 months ago. We announced that in May last year. And we’ve been building up on that story. So, a scoping study, a very positive scoping study, was released last year, and we’re now working towards a prefeasibility study.
Melissa Darmawan: ESG as a thematic is quite in focus at the moment. How does Trigg Mining fit within that?
Keren Paterson: Well, the project itself is really sustainable. It’s talking about harvesting brine. There’s no open pit, rock waste dump or a tailing storage facility. It’s about harvesting solar energy to produce a natural product, and the product has an impact on sustainability of agriculture and can also have an impact on carbon sequestration. So, addressing climate change. From a social perspective, it’s a long-life project, which gives us great opportunity to create employment opportunities for our local owners. And this is a project that’s for Australia, for all of us as stakeholders, to be really proud of. So, it really is an ESG thematic long before it became a requirement from investors.
Melissa Darmawan: So, what is potash and why is it important?
Keren Paterson: Well, potash, it’s a bit of an old fashioned name for potassium fertiliser. And, in fact, the history of it is, it was produced by burning trees and creating it in a pot. So, that’s where the “potash” name came from. Potassium is essential for all living cells. We need it in our diet. We need it in our cells to exist. So, it’s important for our nutrition, but it’s also equally important for the things that we eat.
Melissa Darmawan: There’s an acronym, “SOP”. Explain to us what that is.
Keren Paterson: Well, sulphate of potash is also known as “potassium sulphate”. It’s combining elements of potassium and sulphur. So, that’s meeting two of those four macronutrients that plants need to grow. It’s a really efficient and clean fertiliser. But there’s not a lot of natural sources like what we’re talking about at Lake Throssell, Trigg’s flagship project. So, we need to make it using another product called “muriate of potash”, potassium chloride.
Melissa Darmawan: So, potash itself, the price has skyrocketed this year. Talk us through the why.
Keren Paterson: Well, in the last 12 months, there’s been some big geopolitical shifts. In June last year, the EU and the US imposed sanctions on Belarus for what I understand is human rights violations. And that has an impact on about 20 per cent of the supply of that muriate product, which makes up the majority of the potash market. China has restricted exports of fertilizer, and particularly SOP, because they produce nearly two-thirds of the world’s sulphate of potash. Other events, so with the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, that has made… Russia produces another 20 per cent of the global muriate of potash market. So, that’s really tied up now some 40 to 50 per cent, when we consider China as well, supply in the potash market.
Melissa Darmawan: So how does this position Trigg, then?
Keren Paterson: We’ve made a really big discovery in the year, and that’s called “Lake Throssell”, which sits on the Great Central Road, about 170km east of Laverton in Western Australia. That road is important to us because that is being upgraded to be the Outback Highway. And that gives us access to markets in Western Australia and across to the east coast, as well as access to port for export of the product.
The project itself, it just continues to surprise me in how big it is, and it continues to grow. We’ve drilled out the first 35km of the deposit and identified 14.4 million tonnes of sulphate of potash, and it’s drainable. So we’re not talking about anything that we’ll be digging up, there’s no open pit or rock waste dump. It’s about pumping brine out of the ground in a harvestable way, evaporating the water, producing the potassium-rich salts to put into the process plant to produce a really pure sulphate of potash project for our food supply
Melissa Darmawan: Can you give us some more colour around the scoping study?
Keren Paterson: Even now, at this very early stage, we’re looking at a mine life of 21 years and producing 245,000 tonnes per annum of sulphate of potash. And that has a really positive NPV, but it’s almost out date. Well, it is really out of date because we based the price on US$550 a tonne and the price at the moment’s nearly $1,000 a tonne, so there’s a lot of upside to our story yet. And also on the exploration side, so that was on the first part of the drilling, we’ve now had more tenements granted that extend our strike length at Lake Throssell to 70km. So, doubling it. And then we have another project in the same system, the same paleovalley in which we find these rich brines, just to the south of Lake Throssell, starting from 35km to south. We’ve identified the extension to the paleovalley in granted tenements for about another 80km, which we intend to drill later this year.
Melissa Darmawan: So, what’s the outlook from here?
Keren Paterson: So, for Trigg, it’s about expanding and looking at our project, working towards a prefeasibility study. But what I find really exciting about all of this that we are working on is a new industry for Australia, a source of potassium fertiliser that our agricultural industry needs, and the impact that sulphate of potash can have on the sustainability of our agriculture. If we substitute this for some muriate that’s been used on a broadacre farm, for example, they’ll have a better impact on the sustainability of that soil, the health of that soil, and then ultimately the crop yields and the food that we get to see on our tables.
Melissa Darmawan: Absolutely. Something locally made here, that’s very exciting.
Keren Paterson: Australian product for Australian food.
Melissa Darmawan: Exactly. Exactly. Keren, it was absolutely great to speak with you, and I look forward to the next steps ahead.
Keren Paterson: Great. Thank you, Mel.