Australia could be supplying Asian fertiliser manufacturers with phosphate as early as next year following the start-up of a phosphate mine in the country's north.

Minemakers Ltd (MAK.AX) expects to secure financing in coming months to develop its A$100 million ($71 million) Wonarah phosphate project in Australia's Northern Territory, allowing first production in 2010, the company said on Friday.

Stockbroking firm BBY has been mandated to arrange the financing.

Raising money should be doable if the numbers stack up as ours do, said Minemakers Chief Executive Andrew Drummond.

Australia currently imports phosphate to supplement locally mined phosphate used in the manufacture of fertilizers.

Private company Australian Transport and Energy Corridor Ltd (ATEC), under a deal with Minemakers, will undertake a financial study on the viability of a 250 kilometres (155 miles) railway to connect Wonarah to the north coast city of Darwin for export to Asia.

Drummond said a rail link would allow the project to be expanded beyond the 3 million tonnes a year currently planned.

Initially we're looking at 1 million tonnes a year until the Darwin wharves are expanded, that should be in place in 2011 when we should be able to do at least 3 million tonnes, said Drummond.

ATEC also has a long-term plan to build an inland railway linking the southern city of Melbourne with Darwin via the eastern states of New South Wales and Queensland.

Drummond said Wonarah would be one link in the proposed new inland rail. (Editing by James Thornhill)

© Thomson Reuters 2008. All rights reserved.