Inside Mining talks with Brad Sampson, CEO of Kore Potash – an advanced-stage mineral exploration and development company incorporated in the UK and listed on three stock exchanges – to delve deeper into the company’s take on sustainability.
Inside Mining: How would you describe your first year in the job?
Brad Sampson: Kore is at a crucial stage in the development of its assets, so I have been working to constantly improve my knowledge and understanding of the basin, and at the same time ensuring that the company is in the best possible position commercially. One factor that I was aware of when I took the job was that the scale of opportunity that Kore Potash and the Sintoukola Potash Basin in the Republic of Congo represent is huge. As long as the right development path is taken, there is the ability to supply potash fertiliser to the world’s farms for generations – possibly hundreds of years. If anything, my appreciation of the opportunity has grown since my appointment. With that in mind, as CEO, I do feel a sense of responsibility to get this project right – probably even more so than with other assets I have worked on.
Q: With several developments at the mine, what is your take on the potash mining industry as a whole?
The fundamental outlook for the potash sector is that demand is going to continue to grow, and new supply chains must be created to satisfy this. In the last 50 years, demand for potash has quadrupled and this trend can only continue as the global population grows along with its need for healthy, high-yielding crops and as the amount of available arable land per person falls. As to where Kola and DX can fit into the market, what we can say for sure is that when either or both assets are in production, they will be among the very lowest opex mines in the world, with the shortest transport routes to customers, and be capable of supplying potash to farmers for multiple generations.
Q: How can you ensure operational sustainability?
As mentioned, operating costs at Kola and DX are very low. Why? Well, the deposits are among the highest-grade potash mines in the world, close to the surface and close to the sea. The inputs to get the potash out of the ground and to process it into MoP are much lower than many of the other large producing assets in the northern hemisphere, with no deleterious by-products or tailings. In addition, because of our location on the coast – in the middle of the west coast of Africa – distances to deliver our potash to our target markets are materially lower than the northern hemisphere producers, meaning both lower costs and lower environmental impacts. One simple way to look at it is days at sea. From our transhipment area to the Port of Recife in Brazil is about 11 days at sea for a bulk carrier; from Vancouver, it is at least double that. That means at least 11 days’ less bunker fuel is burned. Designing and developing potash projects that are inherently efficient over the life of the asset is one way for the industry to reduce emissions, improve its stewardship, and arguably can have a greater impact than almost any other means.
Q: What kind of lessons have you drawn from leading Kore Potash?
My time at Kore has shown even with tier-one deposits, a geographic advantage over competitors, and growing global demand, it takes careful and diligent work to get from exploration to development and construction. This has not been a surprise but it makes you remember that every project is different with unique complexities – and maybe makes you feel a bit more sympathy for your peers!
Q: What does the future hold for Brad Sampson and Kore Potash?
Bringing these globally significant assets into production is my and Kore’s focus. Demand for potash is growing, especially in our target markets of South America and the African continent. The quality of our assets and their location on the coast put us in a prime position. We have begun a PFS on the DX project, which the scoping study showed presents us with a low-risk, low-capex, rapid route to potash production. We are progressing the optimisation of the Kola project, which has already seen one proposal for US$415 million (R6.15 billion) in potential cost reduction, with more optimisation to come. Driving the work programmes at both deposits will allow us to provide maximum value to shareholders, to the Republic of Congo, and to our local communities, and ultimately help provide low-cost fertiliser to farmers worldwide.