This is a welcome development for K+S Salt Australia’s proposed solar salt project because it will have a positive impact on both the local environment and the project’s viability.

Permeability is measured by infiltration rates – that is, how easily fluid can move through the upper soil. With more seepage in the salt flats, more seawater is lost.

But the studies that have just been completed found the permeability of the pond areas, which were already low, are up to 10 times lower than anticipated.

The results of the permeability studies supported the work already done to minimise the environmental impact and maximise salt production through a well-planned project layout.

Three years of intensive environmental and engineering work have been done to optimise the layout of this world-scale new solar salt project south of Onslow.

K+S Australia Managing Director Gerrit Gödecke said it was outstanding news from an environmental and economic perspective.

“From a financial viewpoint, low permeability is one of the most important economic drivers of a solar salt project – less sea water lost.

“From an environmental viewpoint, lower permeability means less water seeps into the ground reducing potential impacts to the surrounding environment.

“We are now working the results through our environmental impact analysis and this will form part of the project’s environmental submission to the EPA.

“It is a win-win result.”

K+S Salt Australia expects to submit a Public Environmental Review and Mining Lease Application by the end of 2020 and is currently in Native Title discussions with Traditional Owners, the Thalanyji People.

A final investment decision will be made after approvals are complete, which is expected to be in 2021.

Mr Gödecke said he is excited by the prospect of the project moving to the next stage of approvals before the end of the year.

“We have taken what works at our other solar salt operations around the world and used this knowledge, alongside years of studies, to come up with an economically feasible and environmentally responsible project,” he said.

K+S Salt Australia’s Gerrit Gödecke and Tobias Thönelt at the proposed Ashburton Salt project site