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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Jan. 16) – An Australian company has announced plans to invest A$12 million (US$9.1 million) in a plant to package and process kaolin – an industrial mineral - boosting Papua New Guinea's growing role as a regional industrial centER.

The managing director of Minerals Corporation Ltd, Vic Alexander, said his company is examining the feasibility of setting up an operation in Port Moresby within the next 12 months, employing some 45 people.

Minerals Corporation, which has invested A$35 million (K85.4 million) at its Skardon River kaolin operations in North Queensland, believes it could halve its energy costs by locating a treatment and packaging plant in Port Moresby.

Kaolin is a raw mineral used for making some important items likes paper, ceramics, paint, soap, detergent among others.

Mr Alexander told The National his company was looking at having transshipment and warehousing operations in Port Moresby that will involve new and expanded shipping routes to Europe and Asia to accommodate tonnages expected to rise to 175,000 tons a year over the next three years.

It will utilize gas or liquefied petroleum gas from the newly completed Napa Napa refinery, which is currently exporting almost half its output into Queensland and to neighboring Pacific island countries.

The facility in Port Moresby, at Curtin Bros Motukea site, will carry out bagging operations and calcining, or the heating of the hydrous clays to a temperature of 1,050 degrees centigrade, in a kiln.

Minerals Corp is also assessing the prospect of establishing Asia’s first silane treatment plant in Port Moresby, enabling this high tech facility to treat kaolin for use in the growing polymer, rubber and plastics markets, Mr Alexander said.

Silane treated clays are presently imported into Asia from the United States and Europe.

"The opportunities for the PNG operation are very exciting and the attraction is the most competitive cost structure in PNG versus Australia," Mr Alexander said.

He said the PNG operation would run on LPG or natural gas and energy cost savings would be as high as 50% because the Skardon operations now uses imported diesel.

"We feel the new oil refinery at Port Moresby will open up a number of new and expanding industries for PNG which will help the PNG economy and make it attractive to international investors."

Minerals Corporation, which is also looking into dual listing on the Port Moresby Stock Exchange (POMSoX), has received in principle support from its board for its PNG proposal.

"They could all be phased in at Port Moresby over the next 12 months provided these assessments are positive regarding investment plans, government approvals and technical requirements," Mr Alexander said.

January 17, 2005

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