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Agripower’s new $52 million fertiliser manufacturing plant is taking shape at Charters Towers, with commissioning planned in the first quarter of 2019.

The company plans to go out to tender soon for a contractor to carry out campaign mining at its Greenvale site to provide the amorphous silica ore for processing at the facility.

Agripower managing director Peter Prentice said the new 250,00tpa-capacity plant was nearing mechanical completion and that electrical completion was expected in January/February.

“The granulation plant should be commissioned in March (2019) and we are simultaneously building a smaller liquids plant with capacity of 750,000 litres per annum, that will be commissioned probably in April/May,” he said.

The company has been operating a pilot facility to produce a granular form of silicon fertiliser for the agricultural market, with the planned step-up to commercial production following in excess of 500 grower trials in 14 countries.

Mr Prentice said the construction had supported about 85 jobs including the on-site work and those involved in fabrication and engineering work in Charters Towers and Townsville businesses.

He said Agripower would look to start hiring operators for the new plant from about February in the lead-up to commercial production.

“We have about 24 people employed at the moment – that will go to 55-60 people including logistics and transport personnel as it ramps up in the first year,” he said.

The plant has been designed to be relatively easily scaled up through the addition of extra process lines.

“In 2019 we’ll have the new plant commissioned, we’ll be delivering into sales contracts, we’ll be growing the demand for the product nationally and internationally – and it wouldn’t surprise me, as we get to early 2020, if we’re starting to look at further expansion of the operation,” Mr Prentice said.

“Ultimately we see the project expanding quite significantly over the years ahead.

“I think it’s going to take us the next three years to bed down the international and Australian market for the product, but I would like to think that in the next three to five years we’re out there producing and selling in excess of 1 million tonnes a year.”

Agripower forges ahead with new fertiliser plant