01/05/2022 - 20:58

ABx secures $7.5M grant for smelter waste recycling

01/05/2022 - 20:58

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Alcore, an ABx Group subsidiary, has secured a $7.5 million modern manufacturing grant from the Federal Government to assist in the development of its world first aluminium smelter bath recycling plant. The facility aims to generate aluminium fluoride, an essential chemical for aluminium smelting, from smelter waste product bath. Australia currently imports its entire aluminium fluoride supply.

ABx secures $7.5M grant for smelter waste recycling
ABx Group’and Alcore CEO Dr Mark Cooksey. Credit: File.

Alcore, an ABx Group subsidiary, has secured a $7.5 million modern manufacturing grant from the Federal Government to assist in the development of its world-first aluminium smelter bath recycling plant. The facility aims to generate aluminium fluoride, an essential chemical for aluminium smelting, from smelter waste product bath. 

Australia currently imports its entire aluminium fluoride supply.

Alcore Ltd, an 83 per cent owned subsidiary of ABx, is developing what is  understood to be the world’s first commercial plant to recycle aluminium smelter bath into valuable feedstock chemicals for the smelting sector.

The $7.5m Modern Manufacturing Initiative grant covers almost half of the $16.4m capex of the plant, slated for Bell Bay, Tasmania. 

The scheme was designed by the Federal Government to unlock private sector investment for recycling and clean energy businesses and support manufacturers to deliver on the world stage.

The Manufacturing Translation Stream, administered under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative aims to support projects that aid the translation of high-quality research and ideas into commercial outcomes, help businesses to scale-up to become more competitive and resilient, assist businesses to adopt new technologies and improve manufacturing processes to boost productivity and competitiveness. 

Alcore plans to annually transform 1600 tonnes of aluminium smelter bath, a waste product from the smelting process, into hydrogen fluoride and other industrial chemicals.

Most of the hydrogen fluoride will be further processed into the essential smelting feedstock chemical aluminium fluoride. Australia currently has no domestic supply of the chemical.

Longer term, Alcore’s plans to expand the plant by 15 times, that allow it to process all Australia’s aluminium smelter bath and in turn supply more than 80 per cent of Australia’s aluminium fluoride requirements.

The company said a significant benefit of the project is the establishment of domestic aluminium fluoride production to protect the aluminium industry from supply chain disruption. The local facility will create self-sufficiency, increase Australia’s manufacturing resilience and capability, whilst reducing dependence on international markets that have been increasingly subject to trade issues and shipping disruptions.

ABx Group and Alcore CEO, Dr Mark Cooksey, says: “We are eager to deliver our Tasmanian project as soon as possible, to increase the security of supply for Australian aluminium smelters and create highly skilled manufacturing jobs.”

“The production of aluminium fluoride from aluminium smelter bath is an exemplary illustration of the circular economy.”

Management said in the past decade, the global smelter bath market has moved into oversupply and smelters are increasingly finding it difficult to sell tapped bath, and increasingly do so at a loss.  The likelihood China will ban bath imports only exacerbates the problem.

The potential for an Australian producer to generate most of the country’s aluminium fluoride requirements and sidestep geopolitical supply issues has clearly found favour with the public sector mandarins who manage the nation’s purse strings.

The intellectual property behind the process that controls the reactions of fluorine acids with metal oxides were originally developed by CORE Intelligence Australia with whom Alcore has an exclusive licence to use the CORE technologies to produce aluminium fluoride globally. 

Alcore is currently developing its patenting strategy.

 

Is your ASX-listed company doing something interesting? Contact: matt.birney@businessnews.com.au

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