PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian government this week said that its A$1.25-billion investment into ASX-listed Iluka’s Eneabba rare earths refinery, formed part of its plan to become a global critical minerals powerhouse by 2030.
Iluka this week took a final investment decision on the Enabba project, which is expected to cost between A$1-billion and A$1.2-billion to develop, and will have a 17 500 t/y total rare earth oxide capacity.
The federal government will contribute A$1.05-billion through a non-recourse loan under the Critical Minerals Facility, along with a A$200-million cost overrun facility, if required.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the announcement represented a decisive step forward in rare earths production and processing in Australia.
“Australia has the best resource industry in the world and we have an unrivalled competitive edge when it comes to being a reliable, sustainable provider of critical minerals and rare earths.
“Our support for this project will capitalise on our advantages, helping to strengthen Australia’s critical minerals supply chain while also creating huge job and economic opportunities for Australians for generations to come.
“Australia’s critical minerals are in demand because they are the key input for everything from mobile phones to fighter jets, not to mention the technologies of the future that haven’t even been realised yet.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said the project would help secure Australia’s manufacturing capability, unlocking a new generation of high-wage, high-skill, high-tech jobs.
“Building a modern manufacturing sector and securing our sovereign capability is a key part of our plans for a stronger economy and a stronger future for Australia. Australia’s critical minerals sector and the job-creating industries that rely on it are being supercharged under the government’s A$2.5-billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy.”
Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan said the project would promote Australia as a reliable and trusted supplier of oxides.
“The government is advancing Australia’s position as a world leader in the critical minerals sector,” Tehan said.
“Our government is supporting businesses to invest in projects in regional Australia, create jobs and meet the global appetite for critical minerals.
“We are working with our trading partners to help facilitate partnerships between Australian critical mineral project proponents and potential sources of offtake and investment.”
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt said the project would help Australia increase its sovereign critical minerals processing capacity, potentially underpinning new industries and applications.
“The facility could supply up to 9% of the global rare earth oxide market when it comes online. It will initially use the Eneabba stockpile, one of the highest-grade sources of rare earth elements in the world,” Pitt said.
“The refinery is also designed to process concentrate from many other deposits across Australia, making it a natural hub and reducing the capital required to bring other projects online.”
Construction at Eneabba is slated to start in the second half of this year, and first production is expected in 2025.