Fertiliser company Ravensdown is investigating the possibility of mining highly valuable phosphate rock reserves at the only known New Zealand site, Clarendon Hill at Milton in South Otago.
Ravensdown says it is looking locally for a cheaper alternative to the imports since the international price of phosphate rock has increased from around $75 a tonne to $765 a tonne.
The Milton deposit is the only known area in New Zealand where phosphate reserves have been mined commercially, and the site was was last mined in the 1940s.
Ravensdown chief executive Rob Green says the reserves were brought to their attention by a local landowner during the national agricultural Fieldays at Mystery Creek this year.
He says the company is starting some exploration work on the site to determine how much phosphate is there.
Mr Green says it is estimated there are enough phosphate reserves for Ravensdown to be self-sufficient in superphosphate for 22 years, and it is possible the company could start mining in 12 months.
Clutha District Council district development officer Julie Pearce says the possibility of phosphate mining in the area is great news, especially for farmers, who make up the bulk of the district's workforce.
She says the price of fertiliser has skyrocketed in the past 12 months, and local phosphate mining would hopefully mean farmers could source it locally for lower prices.
Julie Pearce says any mining would also bring new industry into the district, and more job opportunities for local residents.