Australian explorer Clara Resources is in talks with the 60% owner of its Ashford metallurgical coal project in northern New South Wales about acquiring the equity stake, the company said in an update. Clara Resources acquired a 40% interest in the Ashford project in April 2021 from Laneway Resources, now Savannah Goldfields, and can acquire the remaining 60% interest for 7 million Australian dollars ($4.6 million).
“Clara and Savannah are currently in negotiations with respect to the terms and conditions of a proposed early exercise of the option to purchase Savannah’s interest,” said the Australian explorer in a Jan. 30 operations update, but added the negotiations are incomplete.
The Australian exploration company is close to finalizing a scoping study examining the viability of developing the project as a mine to produce coking coal products for export.
“The study will identify an economic development pathway for the project, based on the data currently available, coal pricing forecasts and defined mining, processing and transportation assumptions,” Clara Resources said in the update.
In parallel to the scoping study, the company is starting an environmental impact study for the Ashford project and has been in talks with landowners and indigenous groups. Clara Resources said last June that it had found a viable trucking solution for its Ashford project following the publication of a transport options study. Specialist transport consultants Smith Global delivered a report that identifies a road route for trucking met coal from Ashford to a rail load-out point for the Inland Rail project. The Smith Global report identified several potentially viable road-based transport options between the Ashford project and a rail head on the Boonal-Moree section of Inland Rail.
The Australian Rail Track Corporation is developing its Inland Rail freight project to connect Brisbane to Melbourne and has completed a section of line within 120 kilometers (75 miles) of Ashford. ARTC has already delivered on rail improvements between Narrabri in the Gunnedah coalfield and North Star in northern NSW since November 2020 as part of Inland Rail.
Ashford’s met coal has similar properties to Queensland coking coals and could produce a semi-hard coking product with ash from 9-10.5% after washing, Clara said. Unwashed run-of-mine Ashford thermal coal was used to power a nearby power plant for 30 years until its closure in 1989, after which a lack of transport hampered export attempts.