Alice salt mine: new $6m drilling program

The mining company Tellus has awarded to Mitchell Services a drilling contract, worth $6.5m, as part of the planning activities at the Chandler salt mine project, 120km south of Alice Springs.

 

The company has confirmed a 4.5 to 5 billion ton multi-mineral salt deposit.

 

It now seeks to establish “mine planning assumptions” and the volume and grade of halite (edible and industrial salts) and associated high value minerals (fertilisers). Results are expected in early 2014.

 

Drilling support service contracts are being awarded to local Alice Springs firms, including NT Link, Hirex and Central Car Rentals, and Tellus is opening an Alice Springs mine planning office and workshop.

 

The drilling program will target the 700 metre deep, 200 meter thick Chandler formation.

 

“Even though there is a lot of international deep salt bed drilling experience, a lot of innovation is being applied to this drill program as this is possibly the first time that this well design and salt cores recovery method will be used in Australia,” Mitchell’s CEO Nathan Mitchell said.

 

“Tellus is pleased that we have secured a world-class drilling contractor with extensive technical expertise and an ability to drill in challenging locations,” says Duncan van der Merwe, Tellus Managing Director.

 

“This key milestone means adding 2000 meters to the existing 6600 meters of historic drill results. Once we have the new grade and volume analysis, we look forward to advancing the strong off-take expressions of interest we have received from some of Asia’s largest trading houses.

 

“Tellus will source a diverse range of goods, materials and services from suppliers during this study stage. We have a strong preference for contracting with local companies where possible.

 

“This is a milestone for the Chandler Project and will inform our next critical decision-making step in February about whether to proceed to stage two of the definitive feasibility study.”

 

PHOTO: The diamond core drilling rig to be used in the further exploration of the salt deposit south of Alice Springs.

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8 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Neil Rilatt
    Posted November 18, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Contrary to Steve Brown’s assertion, ALEC does indeed represent the views of SOME of our community; those concerned that Central Australia is being unsustainably exploited for short term profits at the expense of the natural environment.
    Of course, others in town do not see this as a concern and are free to argue accordingly.
    In such a diverse community as ours there is no such thing as a community-wide consensus on anything. To say that Jimmy’s comments “in no way reflect the attitudes held by Alicespringites” is to plead ignorance to the diversity of thought in this town.
    Attempting to delegitimise the purveyors of an argument instead of engaging in the substance of it is setting the bar for debate pretty low.
    ALEC has asked some important questions out of concern for the long term environmental and social repercussions of the proposed mining activity – questions few others seem to be asking.
    These concerns are legitimate and I’m glad someone is raising them, and not just bending over to the blow-in, out-of-state mining companies (with their big city agenda!) with abject complacency. All of a sudden, bureaucracy works perfectly?

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  2. Terry
    Posted November 17, 2013 at 12:31 am

    @Steve Brown and Duncan van der Merwe
    Good to see that there are still some people that believe that Australia and its government are not a waste of space.
    Development is good for our country, and with the right controls can bring riches, and a better life for all.

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  3. Steve Brown
    Posted November 16, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Further steps progressing the Tellus Salt Mine are fantastic news for Alice Springs, especially at a moment when our economy is really struggling and morale is low.
    I am absolutely certain that the town of Alice Springs welcomes this venture with open arms and very much appreciates the careful methodical and environmentally concerned approach being taken by Tellus Salt.
    Comments being made by Jimmy Cocking from Arid Lands Environment Center (ALEC) in no way reflect the attitudes held by Alicespringites who you will find both welcoming and very much interested in being part of this wonderful project. ALEC is a non representative parasitical NGO that operates by inserting itself into the grant funding stream between the funds source and the intended recipient/outcome, living off tax payers’ funds clearly intended for other purposes.
    They are clearly without the faintest concept of how the funds upon which their very existence depends, our taxes, are generated by projects such as this.
    I am certain however that sometime soon that reality will be sheeted home to them as Government trying to balance the books seeks out and dispatches cost generating no functioning dead weights in the system.
    You might even find some ex members in the line up looking for a job with this new venture, I hope you give them one, a close encounter with economic reality is a perspective changing experience that generally results in a much greater appreciation of the kind of risk energy and drive that those in the real world of private enterprise have to take and make to keep our economy thriving!
    Welcome to Alice, Tellus Salt!

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  4. Posted November 15, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you Duncan for your reply … I can inform the public that ALEC expressed the same sentiments and concerns about the exemption of the title in comments to the NT EPA EIS Guidelines for the Chandler project in July and also requested clarification from both Ministers Chandler and Westra Van Holthe and the NT EPA’s Dr. Bill Freeland.
    We are yet to receive any correspondence related to these concerns. It is this lack of response that causes ALEC to have less than desired faith in the current approvals process and legislative framework.
    Also, it needs to be said that the bulk of the salt to be produced is destined for Asian mining and gas markets where environmental protection is relatively low.
    While we appreciate the proposed removal of wastes from the biosphere, please don’t play a righteous card and ignore that your proposed product – the salt will be causing greater environmental harm elsewhere. We only have to look next door in Indonesia to find drilling projects that have gone awry to say the least.
    The Sidoarjo mud flow in east Java is a good demonstration of what can go wrong with drilling for oil and gas. Your product would enable more drilling across Asia and potentially contributing to gross environmental damage in the region.
    I do get it Duncan, and it is not scaremongering – it is the truth.
    I have had these concerns since you briefed me. I asked questions related to this and I appreciate your desire to want to be considered an environmentalist. Clean air, clean water and clean country.
    A salt mine in Central Australia contributing to Asia becoming a drill rigs pin cushion? I am not comfortable with that.
    I don’t know how you feel about it or have had the displeasure of seeing mining and gas operations in SE Asia but I can tell you – providing a product that facilitates that is not the action of an earth lover.
    Jobs, investment etc – is all good and the size of the resource is huge – the questions remain – what is the NT government going to do regarding the exemption that is clearly stated on your Notice Of Intent and ensure that you comply with the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act within the confines of your title (which exempts it)? Still waiting for an answer.

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  5. Duncan van der Merwe
    Posted November 15, 2013 at 4:49 am

    Jimmy, sorry to see you scaremongering with emotive words when you have been fully briefed on the project and expressed no such concerns in person. We have explained that the proposed salt mine operations will be managed under the Mining Act and the storage operations under the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act and we will require two licenses.
    Tellus is planning to mine salt and other minerals (fertilizer) and then to “value add” the underground space and use the voids left from mining for the storage of equipment, archives and waste in a highly regulated environment.
    We have specifically ruled out anything that could cause harm, such as nuclear, uranium mining waste or materials that will pose a safety, health or environmental risk.
    Rather, we will provide a safe, world class opportunity to remove from the biosphere products that are not suited to landfill, such as drilling muds, asbestos and the sorts of pesticides and oils that lie around on project sites and pastoral properties throughout Central Australia.
    Tellus looks forward to bringing additional investment, jobs, local contracts and other positive regional development to the area.

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  6. Posted November 12, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Important to remember that the business model for this project is based on the mine site also being a waste repository for longterm storage of potentially hazardous chemicals and waste by-products among other things.
    Congratulations to all involved and those awarded contracts – concerns about how the NT Government plans on regulating the waste storage facility when the current legislation exempts Tellus from the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act and the Water Act.
    It’s one thing to have a salt mine, it’s another to have a salt mine and toxic waste dump that isn’t currently regulated by any NT laws.

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  7. Paul
    Posted November 11, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    I’ve learned to be sceptical about these types of company announcements. Finding a ‘high value’ deposit is one thing. Being able to bring it to surface, in this case from 700m, and process and transport it and then find a buyer who can’t source it at a lower price is something else altogether.
    Good news for the local contractors though.

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  8. Posted November 11, 2013 at 5:51 pm

    Important to remember that the business model for this project is based on the mine site also being a waste repository for longterm storage of potentially hazardous chemicals and waste by-products among other things.
    Congratulations to all involved and those awarded contracts – concerns about how the NT Government plans on regulating the waste storage facility when the current legislation exempts Tellus from the Waste Management and Pollution Control Act and the Water Act.
    It’s one thing to have a salt mine, it’s another to have a salt mine and toxic waste dump that isn’t currently regulated by any NT laws.

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