22/07/2021 - 10:30

Lynas secures $15m grant

22/07/2021 - 10:30

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Eight businesses including Lynas Rare Earths, Albemarle Corporation and Australian Vanadium have secured nearly $50 million in federal government manufacturing grants.

Lynas secures $15m grant
Amanda Lacaze says Lynas' new refining process is designed to treat concentrate from its Mt Weld mine in the Mid West.

Eight businesses including Lynas Rare Earths, Albemarle Corporation and Australian Vanadium have secured nearly $50 million in federal government manufacturing grants.

The grants, to be matched 50:50 by the recipients, have gone to companies in the resources technology and critical minerals sectors.

Lynas Rare Earths will use its $14.8 million in funding to commercialise a new process for refining rare earth carbonate, which is used in permanent magnet and electric vehicle production.

The East Perth-based company said the process has been developed in-house and tested at bench scale.

It will be installed during the construction of its new facility in Kalgoorlie, which will undertake intermediate processing of rare earth ore.

Lynas said the new refining process produces a higher purity rare earth carbonate that will feed into its existing plant in Malaysia and its proposed facility in the United States.

The company is investing a total of $500 million upgrading its operations, and told Business News the "vast majority" will be spent on its Kalgoorle facility.

The overall budget also allows for upgrades at its Malaysia refinery.

Lynas estimates about 120 ongoing jobs will be created in Kalgoorlie, bringing its Goldfields workforce to over 200 people. 

Chief executive Amanda Lacaze said the commercialisation of its new refining process was the culmination of significant research and development by its inhouse team.

She said the process had been designed to treat concentrate from its Mt Weld mine in the Mid West as well as concentrate from other miners.

Today’s funding news coincided with a quarterly update from mineral sands miner Iluka Resources on its own rare earth processing project, at Eneabba in the Mid West.

It is currently processing a stockpile rich in monazite, which contains rare earth elements.

Iluka is building a processing plant that will produce monazite concentrate, which will be suitable as a direct feed into rare earth refineries.

It is also undertaking a feasibility study on construction of a rare earth refinery at Eneabba, which would be the most significant investment in this sector in Australia.

The company received a letter of support from the federal government in May, and noted it was in discussions with Export Finance Australia regarding financial support for the project.

If it proceeds, the Iluka refinery would be capable of processing third-party rare earth concentrate in addition to Iluka’s monazite.

Commenting on today’s funding announcement, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Christian Porter said Australia was well placed to capitalise on growing global demand for battery systems and the critical minerals associated with their production.

“Australia’s resource sector is world-class,” Mr Porter said.

“Through our $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.

“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.”

US company Albemarle, which is building a $1 billion lithium refinery at Kemerton near Bunbury, secured a $4.9 million grant.

Its project aims to transform refinery residue for use in the construction sector.

West Perth-based Australian Vanadium will use its $3.9 million in funding to advance its manufacturing plans.

These include a high-purity processing circuit to produce high grade vanadium pentoxide.

It also plans to build and operate a commercial vanadium electrolyte plant in WA, to support the rollout of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFBs) in Australia.

The company aims to use these batteries to manufacture residential and stand-alone power systems, for use in off-grid settings such as mining, agriculture and remote communities.

Core Lithium will use its $6 million in funding to help build a pilot processing facility for the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide at Darwin.

Flip Screen Australia in the NSW city of Wagga Wagga will use its $10 million in funding to build a new facility to manufacture mining equipment.

Tasmanian company Elphinstone will receive $5.1 million in funding to develop battery-powered underground mining support vehicles that eliminate the need for diesel.

Similarly, Batt Mobile Equipment in NSW will use its $4.5 million in funding to build heavy battery electric vehicles for underground hard rock mines.

Brisbane METS Lab No. 1 in Queensland will use it $1.2 million in funding towards a vanadium processing pilot plant.

 

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