PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Queensland government has approved the mining licence for the state’s first vanadium mine, green-lighting Multicom Resources’ A$250-million Saint Elmo project, near Julia Creek.
“I congratulate Multicom as the first cab off the rank in an exciting new era for Queensland’s resources sector, and a massive boost to our Covid-19 Economic Recovery Plan,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“Vanadium is a new economy mineral that will fuel Queensland’s future as a global resources supplier for decades to come. Vanadium is an important ingredient in the manufacture of specialty steel and will be used in large-scale renewable batteries around the world because it can be charged thousands of times without degrading.
“This project, and these jobs, are a milestone in a journey that began seven years ago with the Queensland government’s North West Minerals Province Taskforce.
"This also lays the foundation for a potential next level new industry in Queensland manufacturing vanadium redox flow batteries.”
Multicom Resources CEO Shaun McCarthy said the start of mine construction was planned for 2022, supporting 250 jobs at peak, with first production forecast for late 2023.
“Saint Elmo is initially forecast to produce up to 5 000 t/y of vanadium pentoxide, supporting at least 150 mine jobs and operating for up to 20 years.
“As the project expands production to 20 000 t/y over time, there’ll be an additional 100 operational and 150 construction jobs created. We expect around three-quarters of the workforce to either live in Julia Creek or McKinlay Shire, or to travel from surrounding communities of Cloncurry, Richmond and Mount Isa.
“Multicom will also source our suppliers from the local region as much as possible and is well-supported by the well-established supply chain along the Townsville to Mt Isa corridor,” said McCarthy.
“With ore processing to occur on-site and product to be shipped globally from the Port of Townsville, Multicom will benefit from the reliable logistics solution provided by the Flinders Highway and Queensland Rail’s Mount Isa line.”
Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the new Saint Elmo mine demonstrated the success of the government’s approach to enabling a prosperous resources sector.
“Consistent with our policy of fostering new economy minerals development, the Geological Survey of Queensland is constantly gathering data on the state’s mineral endowment.
“The government makes that pre-competitive data available to explorers free of charge to help de-risk their exploration activity. This data gives companies like Multicom the confidence they needed to support investment and a mining lease application.”
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the grant of the mining leases for the Saint Elmo project, with CEO Ian Macfarlane saying it marked the start of Queensland’s strategic move to become a globally significant supplier of new economy minerals.
“Vanadium is used in a range of green technologies and products, though is most well-known for its ability to strengthen steel, and is already used in space vehicles, nuclear reactors and aircraft carriers,” Macfarlane said.
“Vanadium flow-batteries are also fast becoming an important energy storage solution alongside lithium batteries, because they are a stable alternative in areas of extreme temperature and offer greater storage capacity and efficiency for large scale storage.”
“The Saint Elmo project is one of the first new economy mineral mines in Queensland to be approved and the QRC congratulates Multicom’s leadership team for reaching this stage of its operations,” he said.
Macfarlane said the approval of Multicom’s mining leases was also great news for North Queensland and its regional communities.
“A new economy minerals strategy was first released by the Queensland government in 2019, with the first step being to increase exploration and prove up our resource knowledge,” he said.
“The next step was for companies to move into the production phase, which is what today’s announcement is all about.
“Moving forward, to reach the goal of adding value to our new economy minerals in Queensland, we will also need to understand the supply chain, and in particular what processing opportunities exist right here in Queensland.”
Saint Elmo is the first mine approved in a potential vanadium hub in the far north-west, with other companies progressing other potential mines.