Chatham Rock Phosphate to receive Callaghan R&D grant

Chatham Rock Phosphate is to receive a Callaghan Innovation Research and Development Growth Grant.

These on-demand, three-year grants provide 20 per cent public co-funding for qualifying firms’ eligible R&D expenditure, capped at $5m a year. After two years of funding, businesses can be granted a two-year extension of funding.

Chatham Rise-based rock phosphate will offer the opportunity for New Zealand’s farming industry to derive new environmental benefits from the use of a low cadmium, low carbon footprint, low run-off organic product.

Managing director Chris Castle said:

 “The grant will enable CRP to increase its expenditure in innovative parts of our business, supporting and growing New Zealand’s scientific and engineering capability.

“Once production starts, CRP expects to be a $200 million dollar a year business with significant on-going investment in R&D.”

Over the past four years CRP has raised more than $33 million, much of which has been invested in scientific research to prepare the information required for a marine consent and mining permit.

The company is in the final stages of its marine consent process, awaiting a decision on its application. It was granted a mining permit in late 2013.

One of the first priorities of CRP’s research plan is to demonstrate the agronomic effectiveness of direct application of CRP’s phosphorite rock and to develop a strategy for growing the domestic and international market for this phosphorus source.

Scientists from AgResearch and Lincoln University will supervise field trials of direct application of CRP’s phosphorite rock to determine optimum application programmes for typical New Zealand pastoral uses, including established hill country grazed pasture and high producing pastures under intensive dairy grazing.

Similar trials in the 1980s demonstrated the potential value of the resource as a direct application fertiliser, and these will be updated to demonstrate the applicability of the product to modern farming practices. The emphasis will be on New Zealand farming conditions but the results are expected to be applicable to global markets.

Benefits of direct application of CRP’s product include reduced cadmium build-up in the soil, lower phosphate runoff in waterways, and reduced need for fertiliser application in the medium to long term.

Other research priorities include:

• collecting environmental data from the Chatham Rise to better understand the natural spatial and temporal variability of oceanographic conditions and sea floor habitats

• trialling the placement of hard material on the sea floor to encourage re-establishment of sensitive benthic habitats

• testing components of the mining system at 400 m on the Chatham Rise

• developing novel techniques to monitor the dynamic sediment plume generated by the mining operations.

CRP has already started discussions with New Zealand and international research organisations about some of these projects.

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