PERTH (miningweekly.com) – A number of resources companies will benefit from the federal government’s near A$50-million in funding for projects that will help grow Australian businesses and create new jobs.
The matched funding from the A$1.3-billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative will support eight companies in the resources technology and critical minerals sectors to scale up local downstream processing of critical minerals; and add value to the battery and clean technology supply chains, including through onshore production of battery storage systems and adoption of battery technology across the mining sector, said Industry, Science and Technology Minister Christian Porter.
Rare earths producer Lynas has been awarded A$14.8-million in funding to develop a world-first process to refine rare earth ore, essential for permanent magnet and electric vehicle production. The new refining process reduces the need for hazardous chemicals and delivers a significantly higher-grade product for export.
The A$500-million project will be based near Kalgoorlie-Boulder and will create about 400 direct and indirect job opportunities in the Goldfields region.
Lynas said on Thursday that the grant will contribute some 50% of the implementation cost.
“We’re excited to bring this world-first rare earth carbonate refining process to Kalgoorlie with the support of the Australian government. Its commercialisation is the culmination of significant research and development by our in-house team,” said Lynas MD and CEO Amanda Lacaze.
Meanwhile, ASX-listed Australian Vanadium has been awarded A$3.9-million in funding to fast-track manufacturing of large-scale vanadium redox flow battery systems that can be used to support residential power grids, or in off-grid settings such as mining, agriculture and remote communities.
Australian Vanadium MD Vincent Algar said that the grant would enable the company to add further value to the vanadium products planned for production in Australia from the proposed development of the Australian Vanadium project, in Western Australia.
“The grant will provide support to Australian Vanadium to achieve production of high-purity vanadium pentoxide, which is a key input to vanadium-titanium master alloys for critical steel applications and vanadium electrolyte for batteries. In turn, this will assist development of the project, with the company now in discussions with offtakers for vanadium electrolyte in addition to vanadium pentoxide.”
In the Northern Territory, Core Lithium will use its A$6-million in funding to help build a pilot processing facility for the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide at Darwin Harbour’s Middle Arm Industrial Precinct.
Core’s immediate goal is to export spodumene concentrate from its Finniss lithium project, some 25 km from the Darwin port, with construction slated to start before the end of the year, and first production targeted for next year.
However, the company is also completing scoping work to examine the potential to capture more of the lithium value chain through downstream processing of the Finniss concentrate to produce lithium hydroxide.
The scoping studies would be followed up with feasibility studies, supported by the grant.
Meanwhile, Tasmania-based Elphinstone will receive A$5.1-million in funding to develop a range of battery-powered underground mining support vehicles that eliminate the need for diesel use in underground environments, while Albemarle Lithium will use its A$4.9-million in funding to transform lithium refinery residue for use in the construction sector in Western Australia.
Batt Mobile Equipment, in New South Wales, will use its A$4.5-million in funding to build heavy battery electric vehicles for underground hard rock mines, while Flip Screen Australia will use its A$10-million in funding to build a new facility to expand into manufacturing advanced mining equipment.
Brisbane METS Lab No. 1 also received A$1.2-million in funding towards its vanadium processing pilot plant.
Porter said Australia was well placed to capitalise on growing global demand for battery systems and the critical minerals associated with their production, with the energy storage market expected to be worth almost $20-billion by 2027.
“Australia’s resource sector is world-class. Through our A$1.3-billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative, we are helping to unlock this enormous potential by providing targeted support for projects that will deliver big rewards for our local economy in terms of export earnings and new job opportunities,” Porter said.
“It is also critical that we build our sovereign capability in this sector, with China currently the world leader in critical minerals processing including battery production.”
“Whether it’s building large-scale battery systems, adding value to critical minerals exports through new refining techniques, or driving the adoption of battery power in mining vehicles, these projects will increase Australia’s international competitiveness and help position us a future leader in this crucial sector.”
Successful projects under the remaining sectors of Food and Beverage, Recycling and Clean Energy, and Defence will be announced shortly.