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Orica plans to make more ammonium nitrate

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Explosives and chemicals supplier Orica plans to increase production of ammonium nitrate at its Kooragang Island site by 70,000 tonnes.

In development application documents before the NSW government Orica outlines plans to construct three ammonia flaring stacks and a 10,000 tonne nitric acid storage tank on the island.

The site currently has approval to produce around 430,000 tonnes of ammonium nitrate per annum, with increased demand from south-east Australia behind the push to ramp up production.

The company said the stacks would be six, 10 and 20 metres high, and would act to burn off any fugitive ammonia released.

While the nitric acid tank would be used to "store imported nitric acid as well as provide additional storage for nitric acid produced on the site".

Orica returned a net profit of $602 million for 2013. This represented a jump of nearly 49% over the previous year.

It stated that the "strategy of promoting product and service differentiation has led to an increased contribution from mining services across its explosives markets".

Chief executive Ian Smith flagged the company’s intention to expand its business without the need to build as many new plants as it has in the past.

The Kooragang Island site has been at the centre of a number of chemical leaks, with some community activists remain concerned about how ammonium nitrate is stored on site, Newcastle Herald reported.

"Any excess [releases] from the plant is still a concern for the Stockton community though and we're still pushing to have the storage of ammonium nitrate lowered,” Keith Craig from the Stockton Community Action Group said.

"Certainly the ammonia flares are a good thing [because they will] burn off any ammonia that's released and you won't get the problems with the community being impacted," he added.

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