EcoMag says you can actually mine magnesium without having to blow a hole in the ground – and it has the technology to prove it.

The company, which is working on a $3 million capital raising ahead of an August 14 ASX listing, owns a technology that can take waste salt water and turn it into high purity magnesium.

“We’re a part of a thing called the circular economy,” executive chairman Tony Crimmins told Stockhead.

“We try to find ways of obtaining resources without causing detrimental effects to the environment.

“We’re probably about the only ethical resource project you will ever find and it’s an infinite resource. So we actually never run out of magnesium.”

Big sea-salt business, endless supply of magnesium 

Australia has some of the world’s largest salt fields and makes the majority of the world’s solar brine salt.

In sea-salt production, ocean water is pumped through a series of ponds, where it is concentrated into brine using solar energy.

Salt is then collected, washed, dried and transported. The resulting waste stream is called a “bittern”.

EcoMag holds an exclusive license to commercialise the technology to recover magnesium from bitterns to produce hydrated magnesium carbonate (HMC) – a high purity magnesium product used in smart phones and as a flame retardant.

Bittern streams from one plant alone in Western Australia’s Pilbara region contain an estimated 165,000 tonnes per year of magnesium, equivalent to more than 600,000 tonnes per year of HMC or over 250,000 tonnes per year of magnesium oxide.

A number of subterranean potash resources, such as those discovered by Kalium Lakes and Australian Potash, also contain high levels of magnesium in their brines.

There is currently around 1 million tonnes of annual demand for magnesium that is reported, but given how niche the high purity magnesium market is, Mr Crimmins believes demand could be substantially higher than that.

“Because it is a very niche sort of chemical, you find there is probably around about seven times that actually being used that doesn’t get reported,” he said.

And there are more and more applications for HMC being discovered.

“We’ve got work going on with the University of New South Wales and with CSIRO on trying to develop further applications,” Mr Crimmins said.

“That’s not only just involved with current usages but things like future filtration systems, air filtration systems and also potentially battery systems.”

Dollar dollar bills y’all

To give you an idea just how valuable HMC can be, check out these numbers: salt can fetch around $US39 ($53) a tonne while iron ore can earn about $US65 a tonne, but HMC can bring in $US1000 a tonne, according to Mr Crimmins.

The price jumps to between $US2500 and $US4000 a tonne if you are selling magnesium oxide and HMC.

EcoMag plans to build its first commercial-scale plant at Dampier at the start of 2019 and begin producing magnesium products late in the same year.