Widespread companies may need financial clout for Chatham Rise

McDouall Stuart stockbrokers consider that the linked companies Widespread Portfolios Ltd (NZX: WID) and Widespread Energy Ltd (NZAX: WEN) will not be able to “go it alone” in developing the Chatham Rise marine phosphate deposits.
The broker’s Market Weekly said the two companies have only one employee, in executive director Chris Castle.
It was likely the two companies would sell down their interest to a party with the capability and capital needed to progress the venture.
It was estimated the project would need $300 million.
WID and WEN had indicated there would need to be a two years work programme that will include a full bankable feasibility study and the gathering of seabed samples to define a mineable resource.
McDouall Stuart said exploration in the Chatham Rise area, near Chatham Island and 600 kilometres east of Christchurch, in the 1970s and 1980s indicated a significant potential seafloor resource of rock phosphate.
“Those studies have assessed proved reserves of 30 million tonnes but with a total resource estimate of 100 Mt,” the broker said.
Rock phosphate is a core input to fertiliser manufacture. Currently, NZ imports more than 1 Mt of phosphate annually from Morocco, mostly by heavyweights Ravensdown and Balance AgriNutrients.
At current prices of about $US200/tonne, the commodity value of imported phosphate adds to around $300 M per annum. Cost of freight from Morocco adds a further $170 M to that bill.

Ross Louthean — 5 March 2010