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The hidden ingredient to Australia’s critical minerals future

critical minerals

It’s one thing to develop the mines needed to supply the world’s critical minerals, it’s another to establish the infrastructure needed to process these minerals.

Australia has a critical role to play in supporting the world’s green transformation, and the Federal Government, alongside mining industry bodies and organisations, is starting to realise the importance of the downstream component.

This is recognised through the Commonwealth’s $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI), which is supporting new Australian technologies and innovations to come onstream, with the goal to process more mined material locally rather than have it shipped overseas.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) national mining leader Debbie Smith said the need for processing capability was gathering steam in Australia’s critical minerals industry.

“The speed at which the infrastructure to be able to process these minerals can come on stream is a dynamic that’s playing out,” PwC national mining leader Debbie Smith told Australian Resources & Investment.

“Australia is thinking a lot about that value-added processing element, rather than just being a miner. But how do we become a miner in processing and then even an advanced manufacturer?”

The MMI recently awarded Pilbara Minerals, alongside its project partner Calix, a $20 million grant to support the development and demonstration of its proposed mid-stream project at the Pilgangoora lithium operation in Western Australia.

A scoping study recently completed by Lycopodium Minerals, in conjunction with the Pilbara Minerals and Calix teams, assessed the technical viability of developing a demonstration scale chemicals facility to produce lithium salts from fines flotation spodumene concentrate produced at Pilgangoora.

In March, the Federal Government announced a $243 million grant package for emerging Australian critical minerals processing technologies. Arafura Resources received $30 million to build a new rare earths separation plant at its Nolans rare earths project in Northern Territory, while Australian Vanadium received $49 million to support the development of its namesake project in Western Australia.

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