From chemicals to the oil industry, the diversity of salt is unmatched. We speak to David Boshoff, Managing Director of BCI Minerals, about the company’s plans for a sustainable and successful mining future.
SALT OF THE EARTH
When one thinks of the practical uses of salt, sodium chloride (table salt) is undeniably the first thing that comes to mind.
However, the application of salt extends far beyond the dining room table.
Nearly 60 percent of the international production of salt is intended for industrial application in today’s market.
With industrial salt being one of the most impactful and commonly used components in a range of business fields, it is in high demand across the globe.
One such company diligently working to meet the growing and diverse demand is BCI Minerals, an Australian-based mineral resources company.
David Boshoff, Managing Director of BCI Minerals, joined the company in 2022, bringing more than 20 years of leadership experience within the mining industry.
“I’ve always been drawn to mining. Unless something has been found, it has probably been mined; it’s such a core part of everyday life for all of us,” he opens.
“There are so many new and exciting developments, particularly with many small and medium-sized companies flourishing in the demand for critical minerals and finding success internationally,” he continues.
With the industry rapidly expanding and reaching new markets, BCI Minerals is making waves as a niche producer in Australia.
Uniquely positioned in an environment that is optimal for high-quality salt and potash production, the company is able to distinguish itself from the competition.
“You need to have a good climate, high evaporation, low rainfall, high wind, and low humidity for good salt production. There’s not a lot of regions in the world that have large amounts of land available that’s flat and with the specific conditions needed, so the region in which we’re developing is ideal,” Boshoff
In addition to these unparalleled environmental conditions, BCI Minerals continues to pave the way for the future of mining by building strong relationships with its customers, offering exceptional products, and maintaining only the highest standards across the entirety of the business.
MARDIE SALT AND POTASH PROJECT
Currently, the company is developing its 100 percent-owned Mardie Salt and Potash project, a potential Tier 1 solar evaporation operation located on the Pilbara coast of Western Australia. The project will rank third in scale globally and be the country’s largest solar salt project.
The operation itself will include nine large evaporation ponds, a salt crystallisers and salt wash plant, a KTMS crystalliser and sulphate of potash (SOP) plant, port facilities, and supporting infrastructure.
As the first major salt project developed in Australia in the past two decades, and the only Australian operation to produce commercially saleable salt and SOP, it will not only provide circular economic benefits but also have strong environmental credentials. 99 percent of the energy required to produce the salt is in the evaporation process, which will be derived from natural sun and wind energy.
Having already completed a significant portion of the project, BCI Minerals is well underway to successfully construct such a monumental and influential endeavour.
“One of the key takeaways is that we’ve been able to deliver items at or under our base estimate, which is crucial, and with cost escalation being the hallmark of the industry recently, our team is very proud of our accomplishments thus far,” expands Boshoff.
Ultimately, this represents a rare, sustainable opportunity to develop a large-scale, multi-generational solar evaporation project that can potentially become one of the largest global operations in today’s industry.
In addition to the multi-generational benefits that projects such as Mardie Salt and Potash are set to deliver to the people living in and around the Pilbara region, BCI Minerals recognises the importance of sustainability-focused initiatives.
The company believes that a systematic approach to environmental management is a key driver for maintaining a sustainable impact on the planet, ongoing compliance, and continued improvement.
“We currently have more than 99 percent of the energy that is required to produce one tonne of salt coming from solar and wind power, which is definitely a differentiating factor for us compared to our competitors in the market,” comments Boshoff.
Along with the significance of the various environmental impacts that the mining industry can have, BCI Minerals also values its relationship with existing Traditional Owners, who have been involved in multiple parts of the company’s projects.
Specifically, within the Mardie Salt and Potash project, BCI Minerals has developed a strong relationship with the Yaburara and Mardudhunera peoples, putting in place native title and Indigenous land use agreements to ensure positive collaboration and the utmost respect.
BCI Minerals aims to foster a positive and inclusive environment that supports the personal and professional growth of Traditional Owners, while strengthening the bonds between the Indigenous community and the organisation.
BCI Minerals has long-term agreements and partnerships in place with both the Wirrawandi and Robe River Kuruma Aboriginal Corporations, and has initiated work readiness programmes to equip participants with the skills and knowledge needed for potential employment opportunities.
“These partnerships form part of the overall picture of who we are – a future-focused organisation that is part of a group of critical minerals required for a sustainable future for all of humankind,” notes Boshoff.
WORKING TOWARDS THE FUTURE
BCI Minerals is continuing to set the precedent for the next generation of mining with a few unique advantages regarding the cost market.
“We will be the only salt manufacturer in the country that can directly load capesize or extra-large vessels,” explains Boshoff.
“We ultimately have a shipping advantage where we can load salt for a lower cost in the regions that we supply.”
With prime land, a niche focus, and a competitive cost given its shipping advantage, BCI Minerals is set to deliver success for many decades to come.
However, no success is found without teamwork. Not only has BCI Minerals worked hard to create a collaborative and motivated workforce to ensure that day-to-day objectives are handled with confidence, but the company also has valuable relationships with its various partners and suppliers.
BCI Minerals has focused on developing long-term strategic partnerships with significant customers, progressing offtake discussions with several counterparties throughout the Asian market.
In mid-2023, BCI Minerals announced offtake agreements with both Itochu Corporation and Indonesia’s MIND ID for the sale of Mardie Salt and Potash’s high-quality salt.
“No project is done by a company on its own. Our trading partners in Asia have come alongside us to look after the Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Indonesian markets, which are key regions,” comments Boshoff.
With Asia being a primary client base that produces soda ash for myriad consumer products used globally, these relationships are central to the ongoing advancement of BCI Minerals’ production endeavours.
With the future of sustainable and responsible mining looking bright for forward-thinking organisations such as BCI Minerals, the industry holds an ample amount of potential to be mined by those ambitious enough.
“It is an exciting time to be in the industry. I feel like this is just the beginning; there’s so many more exciting times ahead, and it’s up to us to make the best of each day,” concludes Boshoff.