BCI signs syndicated facility agreement for Mardie project debt

With project debt financing secured, BCI is planning to take the final investment decision (FID) on the project in the first quarter (Q1) of 2024.

December 21, 2023

ASX-listed mineral resources company BCI Minerals has entered a syndicated facility agreement (SFA) for the $663m (A$981m) project debt facility for its Mardie salt and potash project in Pilbara, Western Australia.

It secured the financing from Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF), Export Finance Australia (EFA), Export Development Canada (EDC), Westpac and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

BCI secured a credit approval of A$150m in commitments from EDC in October. This was followed by Westpac and ICBC, which had committed to provide A$90.5m.

Australian Government agencies the NAIF and EFA collectively committed A$650m towards the project funding in August this year.

The company further stated that debt funding for the project could progress next year after further design and cost development are completed, subject to lender approval.

In a statement, it said that the A$981m project finance is “underpinned by forecast salt revenues only”, in what it calls the “salt-first” project phase.

BCI has allocated the finance commitments across A$830m towards construction loan facilities with seven, 11 and 15-year tenures. A$151m has also been allocated for bank guarantee requirements and other cost overruns.

The SFA also has provision to convert unused cost overrun facilities into working capital facilities to support the project after it is completed.

Westpac was appointed as the sole sustainability structurer for a A$331m facility with a seven-year tenure.

Financial close for the debt facilities is conditional upon satisfying certain project finance conditions such as equity funding, approvals, expert report updates and other customary conditions.

The SFA also includes several conditions for first usage. These relate to binding offtake agreements, executing remaining project contracts.

BCI aims to achieve financial close in Q1 of next year and first drawdown of debt is expected by the middle of the year, after all the remaining conditions are satisfied.

BCI managing director David Boshoff said: “The signing of the Syndicated Facility Agreement is a significant achievement in securing the funding needed to deliver BCI’s Mardie project. The ongoing support shown by this diversified lender group indicates strong confidence and trust in the project over the long term.”

The Mardie salt and potash project is said to be a sustainable opportunity for large-scale, multi-generational solar evaporation operation on the Pilbara coast.

Production at Mardie will be carried out using a low-risk process. Seawater is first pumped from the ocean into an evaporation pond and will be concentrated progressively using sun and wind evaporation techniques.

The process will be conducted through a series of nine evaporation ponds over an 18-month period.

Once built, the project can produce around 5.35 million tonnes per annum (tpa) of salt and 140,000tpa of sulphate of potash.