A state-of-the-art critical minerals pilot processing plant in Mackay has had its concept designs revealed by the Queensland Government.

The concept unveiling took place at the Resources Centre of Excellence and Queensland Resources and Critical Minerals Minister, Scott Stewart, said that the pilot processing plant, FlexiLab, would provide a dedicated facility for industry to test processing and recovery of minerals not normally produced.

Rapidly growing global demand for a wide range of minerals essential to new technologies like renewable energy, is creating new opportunities for companies to develop new value streams based on different critical minerals.

The facility is supported by $5.7 million funding from the Queensland Government.

Designed as a common user facility, FlexiLab is poised to become a hub for helping prove the commercial viability of processing critical minerals such as cobalt, nickel, zinc, vanadium, molybdenum, silica, alumina and rare earth elements.

The unveiling of FlexiLab comes as a part of the Queensland Government’s commitment to diversifying the resources industry, creating a genuine pit to product value chain, creating more jobs along with meeting the challenges of a low-carbon future.

The Resources Centre of Excellence opened in mid-2020 and provides training options for students and apprentices as well as supporting companies to develop new products and research.

Funding the expansion of the resources centre is one of the key actions in the State Government’s 30-year Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan.

FlexiLab will complement the Queensland Resources Common User Facility, which is being built in Townsville.

Mr Stewart said that Mackay is a key player in Queensland’s critical minerals sector and that investments in initiatives like FlexiLab will help to ensure a strong resources future for the community and for Queensland for decades to come.

“As we continue to face the global demand for critical minerals, FlexiLab will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of mineral processing.

“This state-of-the-art facility, designed with a vision for innovation and collaboration, is set to redefine the landscape of mineral processing and accelerate growth in the critical minerals sector.

“This common-user facility is an investment not just in infrastructure, but in Queensland’s economic resilience and future prosperity.

“Queensland’s critical minerals are needed to build our future energy supplies and this facility is a step towards ensuring the entire minerals lifecycle from pit to product stays within Queensland.”

Mackay MP, Julieanne Gilbert, said that the resources industry is a huge part of Mackay’s economy, supporting thousands of jobs and countless businesses.

“We want to see that continue which is why we’re investing in the FlexiLab at the Resources Centre of Excellence.

“There are great opportunities to continue to grow and diversify the resources industry which is good for everyone in Mackay.”

The Resources Centre of Excellence’s CEO, Steven Boxall, said, “It’s amazing to see this project come to fruition as a result of such a successful collaboration between all involved.

“The Mackay, Isaac and Whitsunday region has long been known for its ability to adapt and capture new industries and we now look to use our mining, METS and agriculture expertise to support the emerging critical minerals sector.”

Mr Boxall said that understanding the opportunities and technologies required to successfully transform end-of-life and closed mine sites through economic rehabilitation will be invaluable. 

“The Queensland Government and the visionary nature of the Queensland Resource Industry Development Plan has specifically funded this project and for that we are extremely grateful.

“We look forward to continuing the partnership with a burgeoning critical mineral industry in the Bowen Basin.”

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