Owners of a multi-million dollar diatomite mine development near Middlemarch will be kicking off public consultation in coming weeks as the project gains impetus.
A first round of funding has been secured by Plaman Resources Ltd, which trades as Plaman Global, with more than $28 million raised for development, and more being sought.
Plaman's general manager in New Zealand, Craig Pilcher, said public consultation, including a venue in Middlemarch, would get underway by the end of June or early-July, including with the Otago Regional Council, Dunedin City Council, iwi, Strath Taieri community board and the public.
“We expect people will have a lot of questions, so there will be a fair bit of engagement,” he said.
Pilcher said the first tranche of funding would mainly be used for future land purchases, increasing corporate staffing and further diatomite trials with prospective customers.
“More private (fund) raising is in progress,” he said.
The Foulden Hills site, up to 1,000 metres diameter and 180m deep, was a volcano about 23 M years ago, which became a lake and over 130,000 years it was layered and filled with decaying, silica-bearing microscopic plant life.
“Quarrying is planned to commence in 2021, some preliminary infrastructure works will commence before this,” Pilcher said, with production by 2022.
There would be many full time staff directly employed by Plaman, trained in 2021, plus staff for large service providers needed to support Plaman.
Diatomite at Foulden is rare in having a high organic content, and rather than be used as fertiliser, it would be processed into stock feed supplement, for poultry, pigs, dairy and beef.
On potential customers, Pilcher said there were large companies across the US, Brazil, Mexico and Argentina committed to undertake their own finished-product trials. Ultimately, he believed the top export markets would be “a fairly even split,” across North America, South America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
Plaman has an application before the Overseas Investment Office, to purchase a further tract of about 400 hectares at Foulden Hills.
*Simon Hartley is senior business reporter and assistant chief reporter for the Otago Daily Times.