WA Kaolin making moves to increase production at Wickepin Project, WA

WA Kaolin (ASX:WAK) has made ‘significant’ progress on achieving stage one nameplate capacity production of 200,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) at its Wickepin Kaolin Project in Western Australia.

The news comes ahead of its appearance at Mines and Money Connect Melbourne on 14-15 June.  

The company says it is well on the way to hitting this milestone at the Wickiepin K99 plant after transitioning to a 24-hour operation, as announced by WA Kaolin on 15 May 2023. This transition was supported by the onboarding and training of new local staff who are enhancing operations. 

WA Kaolin notes it is poised to reduce drying costs and store a 2-3 week supply of dry ore during the wet season following the completion of a $1 million undercover ore store at the project site.

Additionally, WA Kaolin has invested in automatic packaging equipment to fill 20kg bags to market its kaolin product to customers who cannot purchase products in the larger bulk bags, providing access to a broader market in the sector. 

Delivery of the kaolin bagging solution is reported to be progressing well, with all equipment now on site and installation in its final stages. Commissioning of the packaging plant is scheduled to take place next month and, once operational, will deliver access to higher-value markets and a larger segment of the kaolin market locally and internationally.

Meanwhile, the company plans to establish a new office in Malaysia to support customers in the region with the help of highly experienced kaolin marketing expert Pettsy Loo, who has been appointed to lead the new branch as Regional Manager, Asia. 

The construction of this new office comes as prices of export container shipping from Fremantle Port continue to ease, enabling the company to offer its products at lower free into store (FIS) prices in Asia. This reduction is noted to have aided in reducing delivery prices of its kaolin products and will also enable WA Kaolin to penetrate further into the Asian kaolin market and boost the ‘rapid growth’ of sales in the region. 

With multiple activities still ongoing across the Wickepin Kaolin Operation, WA Kaolin says the completion of the new office in Malaysia is expected to take place by the end of 2023. 

Addressing the production milestone, WA Kaolin Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Andrew Sorensen says: “Successfully transitioning to 24-hour operation at the Wickepin K99 plant is a key milestone in our ramp up to stage one nameplate capacity. I would like to credit the ongoing commitment of our operational team in successfully moving to round-the-clock operations, which enables WAK to meet the growing demand for our high-quality kaolin products from international customers.

Importantly, the operational performance at WAK has been supported by the onboarding of new workers — all locals from Wheatbelt towns in WA — which has been a smooth process and been tremendous for the site. 

This operational performance sets the foundation for our strategy to expand further into the Asian kaolin market, where demand is strong”

This operational performance sets the foundation for our strategy to expand further into the Asian kaolin market, where demand is strong. WAK has recently made promising inroads into the Asian ceramics sector by taking steps towards building a stronger presence in this marketplace by establishing a new Asian office.” 

WA Kaolin is an ASX-listed mineral exploration, extraction, and processing company poised for ‘significant’ growth due to increasing global demand for kaolin: a commodity with a ‘bright future’ and a growing range of applications. The company’s Wickepin Project lies about 220km southeast of Perth in Western Australia and currently holds a JORC 2012 Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) of 644.5 million tonnes (Mt), including an ore reserve estimate of 30.5Mt of kaolinised granite. 

The project produces kaolin products for tier-one customers and is being primed for expansion to about 400,000tpa in production through a two-stage strategy. 

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Wa Kaolin Ltd
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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.