The following press release came out Tuesday after the market close. This is big news as it proves once again the strong working relationship between Potash Ridge [PRK.TO] & [POTRF] and the State agencies of Utah, most notably the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining, “DOGM.”
Utah is a very mining friendly State and Potash Ridge’s property is on State, not Federal lands. Therefore, final permitting steps are expected to be relatively straight forward as no Federal involvement is required. A lot of minerals are mined in Utah and there is good access to key infrastructure. Roads, power, rail and natural gas are all readily available. Compass Minerals is a long-time potash producer in Utah. In addition to being mining friendly, Utah is better situated to serve west and southwest U.S end markets.
According to CEO Guy Bentinck, the company’s project is now very advanced in its permitting program with only one more major permit remaining. Potash Ridge is not one of the dozens of global junior potash plays looking to produce Muriate of Potash, “MOP.” Instead, the company is one of the few that will be surface mining and processing ore into Sulphate of Potash, “SOP.” The difference between the commodity MOP and the specialty potash SOP is increasingly important.
Not All Potash is Created Equal
Investors in potash may have an inkling that there are 2 main kinds of potash, but they probably don’t recognize the importance. This distinction was driven home in July of last year when the price of MOP began to crash. Most potash consumed around the world today is MOP, a true commodity fertilizer product. The market for MOP was controlled by two giant marketing organizations, one in Canada and one in Russia. These two groups or cartels largely controlled the price, which at the time was around $400 per metric tonne “mt.” When the Russian group broke apart last July, pricing discipline went out the window as a member of that splintered group threatened to flood the global market with MOP. Within months, prices of MOP fell by close to 25% to about $300/mt.
As one can imagine, this was terrible news for most commodity potash juniors, many of which are 5 or more years from first production and require potash prices above $400 or even $500/mt to be viable. As a result of the collapse in MOP prices, several projects are now on hold due to lack of funding. Even giant BHP, which has a massive potash project in Saskatchewan, Canada is moving a lot slower in developing its MOP project. Adding insult to injury, Rio Tinto recently announced that they too are working on a large Saskatchewan potash project. There are a handful of junior potash companies, also in Saskatchewan, that are feeling some serious pain right now. Due to large players like BHP and Rio entering the MOP scene and of course the established giants PotashCorp and Agrium, it appears that robust MOP pricing could be many years away.
Yet, the OTHER potash product, SOP, a specialty potash used for high value crops, was untouched from all the MOP drama. While MOP prices fell 25%, SOP prices remained relatively flat. Therefore, the premium paid for SOP over MOP has grown to its highest since 2008.
Sulphate of Potash “SOP” Fundamentals Remain Quite Strong
SOP pricing was unfazed by the decline in MOP pricing because the two are different products that sell to different end users. There are no cartels controlling the price of SOP. Global demand for SOP would arguably be a lot higher if end users knew that they could get reliable supply. In short, the prospects for MOP and SOP are like night and day– great news for SOP producers like Potash Ridge.
Following is the press release of July 8th…
TORONTO, ONTARIO–(Marketwired – Jul 8, 2014) – Potash Ridge Corporation (“Potash Ridge” or the “Corporation”) (PRK.TO)(POTRF) today announced that the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (“DOGM”) has approved the Corporation’s Notice of Intention to Commence Large Mining Operations (“NOI”) at its Blawn Mountain Project.
The Corporation filed the NOI with DOGM in December 2013. The approval initiates a public comment period that will end on August 8, 2014. The application has met all the regulatory requirements set out by DOGM for new mining projects in the state.
“The NOI approval is a major regulatory accomplishment for the Blawn Mountain Project and is the culmination of tremendous work effort by our team,” said Guy Bentinck, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are now very advanced on our permitting program for the Project, with only one more major permit remaining to be addressed as part of the upcoming feasibility study. The receipt of the NOI further evidences the continued efficiency of the permitting process in Utah. We would like to thank DOGM for processing our application in such a timely manner.”
About Potash Ridge
Potash Ridge is a Canadian based exploration and development company focused on developing a surface alunite deposit in southern Utah called the Blawn Mountain Project. It is expected to produce a premium fertilizer called sulphate of potash and a possible alumina rich by-product.
Located in Utah, a mining friendly jurisdiction with established infrastructure nearby, the Project is expected to produce an average of 645,000 tons of SOP per annum over a 40 year mine life. A NI 43-101 compliant Prefeasibility Study completed in November 2013 by Norwest Corporation demonstrated that the Project is both technically and economically viable. The Prefeasibility Study, entitled “NI 43-101 Technical Report Resources and Reserves of the Blawn Mountain Project, Beaver County, Utah” dated effective November 6, 2013 is available on SEDAR.
Potash Ridge has a highly qualified and proven management team with significant financial, project management and operational experience and the proven ability to take projects into production.