Long-running potash project seeks funds

Long-running potash project seeks funds

Asean Potash Chaiyaphum Plc (APOT) is in talks with financial institutions in Thailand and abroad to solve prolonged issues with its 60-billion-baht potash mine in Chaiyaphum province.

The APOT project occupies 9,700 rai and has a potash reserve of 430 million tonnes. The mine has faced strong opposition from villagers and activist groups for over 20 years.

Chief executive Smai Leesakul said APOT is negotiating with local and foreign banks on borrowing to shore up the budget, with a conclusion expected in the next few months.

"We are trying to solve our financial crisis from this project, but we are positive about a new solution very soon," he said.

The project originated from cooperation among Asean member countries under an agreement signed in 1976. The Finance and Industry ministries of Thailand proposed the initial project in 1989.

APOT was founded in 1991 with Asean members owning a 29% stake. The Finance Ministry holds 20%, and the remaining 51% is owned by private companies.

The objective of the project is to undertake potash mining and processing in Chaiyaphum's Bamnet Narong municipality to produce affordable and high-quality potash fertiliser for farmers in Asean.

APOT expects the project to produce 300,000 tonnes of potassium fertiliser in 2018 and 800,000 tonnes in 2019.

Full capacity of 1.1 million tonnes of potassium fertiliser is envisioned by 2020.

Mr Smai said the company is confident that other potash mines in Ban Tan, Ban Phet and Hua Thale subdistricts of Bamnet Narong district will get back on track soon.

The three mines are expected to produce 1.1 million tonnes of potassium fertiliser a year for 25 years.

Over the past few years, APOT has negotiated with three local banks on the 60-billion-baht mining project in the Northeast.

APOT had operating licences and passed an environmental impact assessment for the potash mining projects. The company also holds a licence for a 50-megawatt power plant to supply electricity to the mining area.

APOT built two underground tunnels and spent 10 billion baht during 2017-18 on a mineral dressing plant and development of surface minerals.

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