Drilling

The Federal Government has approved close to $50 million in grants to accelerate and support the growth of Australia’s critical minerals industry and help Australia and export partners lower emissions and meet net zero commitments by 2050. 

It is expected that the funding will also help diversify supply chains, build domestic downstream processing and support new jobs and regional development.

The funding granted under the Critical Minerals Development Program will facilitate the development of 13 projects over the next three years, including feasibility studies, engineering design work and building pilot or demonstration facilities.

The successful projects are located in:

Western Australia

  • $5.5 million to Australian Energy Storage Solutions for a pilot to set up Australia’s first Precursor Cathode Active Material manufacturing plant in Kwinana
  • $4.6 million to IGO 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 for the production of Ferro Tungsten Powders for advanced manufacturing for aerospace, medical, energy and defence products
  • $4.7 million to International Graphite to support the International Graphite Western Australian Mine to Market Battery Graphite Materials Project
  • $5.9 million to Northern Minerals to support its Browns Range Heavy Rare Earths Project at Halls Creek
  • $1 million to Tungsten Mining to support test work for its Mount Mulgine Tungsten Project
  • $6.25 million to Magnium Australia 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 for its Dubbo Project, to support mining, separation and refining, and a production facility for critical minerals including neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium, zirconium, niobium, and hafnium
  • $2 million to Clareville 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 to support a graphite qualification facility at Lucas Heights

Queensland

  • $5 million to Queensland Pacific Metals for the engineering and design for phase one of a full-scale refinery for its Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub
  • $1.2 million to High Purity Quartz 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 to support Ernest Henry Operations to retrieve cobalt from mine waste

The funds are expected to be available from 1 June 2023.

The Critical Minerals Development Program recognises the diverse mineral and metal inputs and how the mined materials get processed, refined and come together as active components of batteries and solar panels as well as aerospace, medical, energy and defence technologies.

The grants support the mining, processing and refining of raw materials, including heavy rare earths, tungsten in Western Australia, and cobalt in Queensland, recognising the links between mining and manufacturing.

The Federal Government is also supporting investment in the processing, refining and manufacture of energy chemicals and metals used in energy technologies such as batteries, wind turbines, electric motors, solar panels and nuclear facilities.

Further details on the grants and the successful projects are available here.

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia, Madeleine King, said, “The successful projects will create jobs and opportunities across regional Australia and help Australia realise its ambitions to be a clean-energy superpower.

“The 13 projects to receive funding under the Critical Minerals Development Program grants 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,” Ms King said.

“The grants will support Australia’s new Critical Minerals Strategy, to be released shortly and which will outline how Australia can capture the significant opportunity of growing its critical minerals processing sector.

“Australia has remarkable potential to meet the increasing global demand for the critical minerals needed for clean energy technologies, such as electric vehicles and batteries, as the world moves to decarbonise.”

Industry response

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) has said it looks forward to the release of the government’s new Critical Minerals Strategy. 

MCA CEO, Tania Constable said a cohesive, strategic investment strategy is critical to unlocking Australia’s remarkable potential along the energy technology value chain.

“The strategy must recognise the opportunities available when mining, processing and manufacturing is integrated into planning and investment as a single value chain,” Ms Constable said.

IG6 Managing Director and CEO, Andrew Worland, said Australia has set its sights on becoming a critical minerals powerhouse and IG6 is thrilled that the Federal Government has recognised its potential to contribute to that vision.

“This grant is an important vote of confidence in our business and confirmation that projects like Springdale and Collie are vital in meeting global decarbonisation targets,” Mr Worland said.

“By moving from mining to downstream production, we ensure the full value of our natural resources stays here in Australia whilst generating local jobs, supporting regional communities and developing new forward facing industries and minerals processing technologies.”

Association of Mining and Exploration Company (AMEC) Chief Executive Officer, Warren Pearce, said, “Critical minerals continue to be recognised by Commonwealth, State, Territory and international governments as fundamental to a decarbonised economy transition.

“The announcement of the grant recipients, following months of competitive applications and oversubscribed demand, demonstrates the innovation and determination of Australia’s mineral explorers and miners, to rapidly unlock new critical mineral opportunities.”

Mr Pearce said AMEC congratulates all 13 grant recipients, particularly its three member companies – IGO Limited, Tungsten Mining, and International Graphite – who were all successful in obtaining grants to accelerate the development of their projects.

“The award of these grants is a welcome first step as industry awaits the finalisation of the Federal Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy,” Mr Pearce said.

“However, greater levels of support will be needed if Australia is to capture the value-adding opportunity that exists across a wide range of critical minerals.”

“We can realise greater value from our resources and build a vibrant critical minerals processing industry here in Australia.”

“We have the minerals, a highly skilled workforce, and the commercial acumen to develop these orebodies into value-added products. But we need to compete for the international capital needed to finance these projects.”

The Western Australia Government has welcomed the Federal Government’s $50 million commitment to accelerate the development of critical minerals projects across Australia.

Western Australia State Development, Jobs and Trade Minister, Roger Cook, said, “We are at a critical moment in history, where Western Australia has the opportunity to capitalise on the demand for our battery and critical minerals including lithium, nickel, cobalt and rare earth elements.

“Investment in projects like these will also continue to deliver benefits to local communities and underpin economic growth in regional Western Australia for years to come.

“It will also create and support a number of jobs while continuing to diversify and strengthen Western Australia’s economy.”

Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Johnston, said, “With some of the largest battery minerals processing facilities in the world, Western Australia is already firmly established as a global leader in the supply of critical minerals and rare earths.

“This commitment by the Federal Government, alongside significant investment by the State Government enables the development of a world-class, value-adding critical minerals downstream processing industry that fuels both global and national decarbonisation efforts.

“Providing the State with a competitive advantage will not only bolster current critical minerals projects but lead to the exploration of other opportunities in this field.”

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