Potential Dampier split with MacLeod Salt sale

News Analysis




Potential Dampier split with MacLeod Salt sale

  • Alison Saxby

Reports suggest that Leichhardt is interested in the Western Australian salt producer 

Dampier Salt’s Lake MacLeod operation, located 50km north of Carnarvon, in Western Australia is reportedly the subject of sale negotiations according to ABC Pilbara. The solar salt and gypsum operation is 68% owned by mining giant, Rio Tinto, under its Dampier Salt joint venture. The other members of the joint venture are Marubeni (22%) and Sojitz (10%). 

The company in the running for the acquisition is reported as Leichhardt, which is currently developing its own salt project at Eramurra, some 55km southwest of Karratha, Western Australia. Production at Eramurra is slated to come on stream in 2028, with an eventual capacity of 4.2Mtpy solar salt, with a final investment decision expected in the second half of 2024.  

Dampier Salt operates two other operations in the Pilbara and Gascoyne region, Port Hedland and Dampier, which are not part of the sale talks. In total, the three salt operations have a capacity of 10.3Mtpy, with Lake MacLeod licensed to produce 6.1Mtpy. Salt is produced from seawater at Port Hedland and Dampier, whereas at Lake MacLeod the salt is extracted from a concentrated brine that lies within the halite layer beneath the lake.  

Lake Macleod salt mine is a long-established operation, with the majority of the salt exported to Asia, mostly for chloralkali production but also as edible salt and other chemical markets. Gypsum is also produced at the operation and could be a potential co-product in the future.