ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development

AMERICAN Pacific Borates has completed a new strategic business, and has decided to defer construction of its US$54 million phase 1A operation flagship Fort Cady mine in California.
ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development ABR slams brakes on Fort Cady development

Infrastructure stands idle at Fort Cady

Haydn Black


The company's US advisory group recommended the decision following a three-day workshop, suggesting the plans advanced under recently departed managing director Michael Schlumpberger, under an original 2018 definitive feasibility study and 2020 enhanced DFS, were on the wrong track.
The three-member group, headed up by former Albemarle executive John Mitchell, was appointed in April to help ready ABR for a US listing this year.
The group suggested the original plan was fraught with risks, and suggested a larger borate operation, and production of both boric acid and borate specialties, would make the company more attractive to US investors, but the listing has been delayed until 2022.
ABR is now assessing two revised base case options: combining its initial phases 1A, 1B and 1C into a single phase one operation producing 90,000 tonnes per annum of boric acid and 80,000tpa of sulphate of potash; or combining both phases one and two into a larger 270,000tpa boric acid and 240,000tpa SOP operation.
The company realised that its former plans required the SOP operation to underwrite the initial boric acid operation, but that procurement delays in Europe meant the development would initially lose money for at least six months, and that there would be no meaningful earnings until phase 1C.
Further, the staged development plan would cost more, and operations could be compromised by continuous construction activities.
ABR will focus on refining its plans to reduce capital and operating costs via engineering enhancements that will come via polite production, and additional drilling to increase its JORC resources.
The extra time would allow time to develop borate specialty products, and advance discussions with potential funding partners for the circa $843 million development.
The pause comes shortly after ABR signed an agreement with NYSE-listed Compass Minerals International to potentially sell all of Fort Cady's SOP.
Construction of stage 1A had already commenced, and was targeting first production next quarter.
Today's plan is the second new strategy announced by ABR this year. 
In February it elected to bringing forward SOP production and defer a boric acid expansion.
ABR recently raised $30 million to fund Phase 1A, with the company ending March with A$59 million cash. 
Shares in the company, which have traded between 38c and $2.53 over the past year, but news of today's delays plunged the stock almost 20% to $1.90.