The Australian government has announced the latest round of funding to support its rare earth minerals strategy which is aimed at reducing sovereign risk, and enhancing local manufacturing supply and capability.
The Critical Minerals Strategy was launched in 2019, and is being updated, but funding has not been held back while that occurs.
Australia has some of the world’s largest recoverable resources of lithium, manganese, tungsten and vanadium, but the new announcement of $50 million in grant funding adds a stack of IUMS: neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium, zirconium, niobium, and hafnium.
The sovereign risk focus is on China. The merger of three large Chinese corporations created the world’s second largest rare earths producer, accounting for 30% of China’s total rare earth metals production and 60-70% of its heavy rare earth metals production.
It has been reported that China accounts for 63% of the world’s rare earth mining, 85% of rare earth processing, and 92% of rare earth magnet production. Rare earth alloys and magnets that China controls are critical components in missiles, firearms, radars and stealth aircraft.
Minister for Resources Madeleine King says the Australian Critical Minerals Strategy will grow the sector, expand downstream processing and help meet future global demand.
“The successful projects will create jobs and opportunities across regional Australia and help Australia realise its ambitions to be a clean-energy superpower,” says King.
“The 13 projects to receive funding under the Critical Minerals Development Program include plans to produce key inputs to lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, and to support supply chains for advanced manufacturing for aerospace, medical, energy and defence applications,” King says.
The next iteration of the Critical Minerals Strategy, to be released shortly, is expected to explain how Australia can capture the significant opportunity of growing its critical minerals processing sector.
The Department of Industry says while global demand for critical minerals is increasing, global supply is uncertain due to the market, technical and commercial risks of critical minerals projects.
The need for robust supply chains was also highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The successful projects are located in:
- $5.5 million to Australian Energy Storage Solutions Pty Ltd for a pilot to set up Australia’s first Precursor Cathode Active Material manufacturing plant in Kwinana;
- $4.6 million to IGO Ltd to support its Integrated Battery Material Facility at Kwinana, which will produce high value nickel-cobalt-manganese precursor cathode active material;
- $1.2 million to Tungsten Metals Group Pty Ltd for the production of Ferrotungsten Powders for advanced manufacturing for aerospace, medical, energy and defence products;
- $4.7 million to International Graphite Ltd to support the International Graphite WA Mine to Market Battery Graphite Materials Project;
- $5.9 million to Northern Minerals Ltd to support its Browns Range Heavy Rare Earths Project at Halls creek;
- $1 million to Tungsten Mining NL to support test work for its Mount Mulgine Tungsten Project;
- $6.25 million to Magnium Australia Pty Ltd to commercialise CSIRO-patented technology for clean extraction of magnesium metal, and a Magnesium Refinery Pilot Plant in Collie.
New South Wales
- $6.5 million to Australian Strategic Materials Ltd for its Dubbo Project, to support mining, separation and refining, and production facility for critical minerals including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium, zirconium, niobium, and hafnium;
- $2.0 million to Clareville Pty Ltd for testing and scale up on its novel flotation separation additive which increases recovery of key critical minerals, such as lithium, cobalt and vanadium, by 50 per cent – with no increase in carbon emissions or environmental impacts;
- $2.9 million to Ecograf Ltd to support a graphite qualification facility at Lucas Heights.
- $5 million to Queensland Pacific Metals Ltd for the engineering and design for phase 1 of a full-scale refinery for its Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub;
- $1.2 million to High Purity Quartz Ltd to support a pre-feasibility study for a project to build a solar PV grade quartz sand processing facility and a silicon metal production facility to establish solar PV cell manufacturing in Townsville;
- $2.2 million to Evolution Mining Ltd to support Ernest Henry Operations to retrieve cobalt from mine waste.
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