$585m in govt loans for critical minerals projects

Brandon How

The federal government has announced a $585 million loan package for two critical minerals processing projects in Queensland and South Australia through its existing loan facility.

The funding, announced by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Wednesday, comes from the $4 billion Critical Minerals Loan Facility, administered by Export Finance Australia.

The $400 million has been committed to Alpha HPA to deliver Australia’s first high-purity alumina (HPA) facility in Gladstone, Queensland, utilising Australian-owned IP.

Conditional approval has also been given for a $185 million loan to Renascor Resources to make purified graphite for use in lithium-ion batteries in South Australia. The original loan was approved by the Coalition government in February 2022.

Stage one of Alpha HPA’s Gladstone facility. Image: Alpha HPA

Alpha HPA’s high purity alumina products can be used in LED lighting, semiconductors, and lithium-ion battery industries. Stage one of the project is already complete, with stage two expected to be capable of producing 10,000 tonnes of HPA equivalent per year.

Stage one of Renascor’s Siviour Graphite Project is located in Arno Bay on the Eyre Peninsula, while stage two is being developed in Bolivar, near Port Adelaide. It will be a vertically integrated mine and manufacturing plant for battery anode material.

Announcing the loans less than a week after revealing plans for a Future Made in Australia Act to counter the Inflation Reduction Act in the United States, the Prime Minister said, “we are building a future made in Australia with secure jobs in our regions”.

“The global race for new jobs and new opportunities is on. Our Government wants Australia to be in it to win it,” Mr Albanese said.

“These two critical minerals projects will help secure good and secure jobs in manufacturing, and clean, reliable energy.”

In a joint statement with the Prime Minister, Queensland Premier Steven Miles said that the loans complement existing state government support for Alpha HPA.

“My government has backed Alpha HPA from the very beginning, by providing State Development Land for this critical minerals facility, more than $21 million in funding to get stage two of the Alpha HPA First project off the ground and a $30 million investment to assist Alpha in making sapphire glass, right here in Gladstone,” Mr Miles said.

In October 2023, the Albanese government doubled the value of the Critical Minerals Loan Facility, which was initially established by the former government as a $2 billion facility at the end of 2021. Most of the first tranche of funding was committed in early 2022, including the original Renascor Resources loan.

The latest announcement follows a $840 million loan and grant package for the development of Gina Rinehart-backed Arafura Rare Earths’ mine and refinery, representing the largest single commitment to the sector from the Albanese government.

Of the funding to Arafura, $495 million was made through the Critical Minerals Loan Facility, $200 million through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund, $115 million from Export Finance Australia’s Commercial Account, with the remaining funding through grants.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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