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    Widespread Energy Limited WEN 26 Feb, 2008, 14:23 MINE Widespread Energy excited about rock phosphate
    Full Text of Announcement
    New Zealand Exchange Limited
    P.O. Box 2959

    26 February 2008

    Dear Sir,

    Fertiliser is the new gold, says Widespread Energy's Chris Castle.

    Rock phosphate, a key fertiliser component, is becoming a new glamour mineral in this era of soaring commodity and energy prices, according to Widespread Energy Ltd managing director Chris Castle.

    Mr Castle was commenting on the 500% increase in the market value of junior Australian rock phosphate explorer Minemakers over the past month after heavy buying demand since January when the company pointed out rock phosphate prices had risen from just $US50 a tonne a year ago to around $US200 a tonne.

    Mr Castle said fertiliser prices were soaring, and expected to continue to remain high because of rising food demand in developing economies and the use of fertiliser for biofuels.

    "The good news is that New Zealand potentially has its own source of rock phosphate which could replace that presently imported from Morocco. And increasing freight costs, now estimated to be approaching $US100 a tonne, underline the logic of sourcing local product with the possible twin advantages of reducing both the product cost and the consumption of diesel oil.

    Widespread Energy applied in November 2007 for a permit to explore for rock phosphate on the Chatham Rise, 600 km off the coast of Canterbury. The area was last explored in the early 1980s when the market value for rock phosphate was a fraction of current prices.

    Minemakers is to start a drilling programme in April to scope its resource. Rio Tinto spent three years exploring the prospect in the Northern Territory, establishing an inferred resource of 72 million tonnes at 23 per cent phosphate. But at the time rock phosphate prices were only at $US40 a tonne.

    Rock phosphate is used as a raw material for producing fertilisers such as super phosphate, but can also be used on its own as a slow release, more environmentally friendly fertiliser.

    "The potential of such resources is certainly focusing the attentions of miners and investors worldwide," Mr Castle said.

    "It's interesting that in Australia it's been farmers who have been buying into Minemakers as a hedge against rising fertiliser prices in the same way other investors are buying gold as a hedge against inflation and nervous share markets. Minemakers estimates farmers hold 10 percent of its shares."

    Potentially economic concentrations of more than 100 million tonnes of rock phosphate were indicated during exploration of the Chatham Rise in the early 1980s by Fletcher Challenge Corporation, Global Marine Incorporated, JBL Exploration NZ Limited and other companies.

    "While no production has occurred in this region, the rapidly increasing superphosphate prices and advances in underwater remote sensing and mining technology means it should logically be feasible to consider mining this underwater resource," according to Mr Castle.

    The rock phosphate occurs in nodules that also contain a number of other substances, including rare earth minerals, fluorine and uranium. These constituents may need to be removed before the rock phosphate can be used as a fertiliser.

    Widespread Energy plans a two-year work programme that, if successful, will be followed by more detailed exploration and evaluation.

    Minemakers is aiming to have an updated resource by mid-year that would form the basis of a feasibility study on a project producing 2-3 million tonnes a year of beneficiated rock phosphate, grading 30 per cent phosphate. First production is targeted for 2010. It aims to start drilling in April. The problem of the resource's isolated location has been eased by the Darwin-to-Alice Springs rail link.

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