Centrex signs up for Pacific phosphate plan

The South Australian miner this week penned an agreement with the traditional owners of Banaba Island where it hopes to explore the feasibility of a phosphate mine.

Aug 17, 2023, updated Aug 17, 2023

Centrex signed the agreement with the Rabi Council of Leaders – representatives of the official owners of Banaba which is thought to be one of the highest-grade phosphate deposits in the world.

Banaba – formerly known as Ocean Island – is a coral island 298km east of Nauru and part of the Republic of Kiribati. It has an area of six square kilometres and has a long history of phosphate mining.

Centrex said that mining on the island began in 1900 and continued for 79 years, at which point the British Phosphate Commissioners ceased operations.

The company said 21 megatonnes of phosphate was mined during this period, with records showing that “practically the whole island” was covered with a deposit of phosphate.

“Centrex’s immediate exploration plans include satellite remote sensing of Banaba to determine areas of high phosphate concentrations,” Centrex said.

“If the remote sensing work is encouraging, Centrex will undertake an Aerial Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) survey of Banaba to create an accurate topographic model of the island.

“This will be followed by exploratory drilling to prepare a feasibility study which will ultimately inform an investment decision in approximately 18 months’ time.”

Centrex managing director Robert Mencel said his company would apply a “modern” approach to mining the island’s phosphate deposits if the exploration works prove fruitful.

“The potential return to mining on Banaba, ironically, provides a much-needed catalyst for its potential rehabilitation and this is why the Rabi Council of Leaders has agreed to Centrex’s proposal,” Mencel said.

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“Irresponsible mining practices did occur in the past, but we intend to apply a contemporary modern approach and high standard of mining and rehabilitation on the island.

“Our objective is to demonstrate that significant remnant phosphate remains on Banaba that can be economically mined to satisfy increasing global demand for high-grade phosphate and at the same time, potentially fund the rehabilitation of the island.”

The miner’s next step is to finalise and enter into an exploration agreement with the Kiribati Government.

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