Canberra tips $13m into critical minerals processing

Brandon How

Queensland and South Australia are set to play a greater role in global lithium-ion battery supply chains after the federal government awarded $13 million in matched grants to two critical minerals processing plants.

The first $8 million has been awarded to Queensland Pacific Metals to progress the Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH), which will produce battery-grade nickel sulfate and cobalt sulfate for electric vehicles.

Renascor Resources — which aims to be the first vertically integrated graphite producer in Australia — will, meanwhile, receive $5 million to progress its purified spherical graphite (PSG) pilot processing plant.

The $40 million International Partnerships in Critical Minerals program opened to applications in February and builds on the Critical Minerals Strategy ambition to deepen international partnerships and promote Australia “as a world leader in environmental and social governance (ESG) standards”.

The anticipated site of Renascor Resources’ Siviour Graphite mine in South Australia. Image: Renascor Resources

One of the five priorities of the National Battery Strategy is to leverage Australia’s comparative advantage to increase its contributions to global battery supply chains.

Queensland Pacific Minerals (QPM) is expected to supply the processed minerals to several overseas customer, including the United States’ General Motors, LG Energy Solution, and South Korean steel conglomerate POSCO.

QPM director Dr Stephen Grocott welcomed the grant, which he said “is a testament to the attractiveness of the TECH Project for high quality, excellent ESG battery materials production”.

The support for Renascor’s Battery Anode Material graphite mine and manufacturing operation in South Australia builds on a $185 million loan through Export Finance Australia’s Critical Minerals Facility.

The firm plans to commission the processing plant in the second quarter of 2025, and has potential purchasing interest from POSCO and Japanese trading company Hanwa.

Renascor managing director David Christensen said the grant funding enable the company to build on its work so far and “ further demonstrate that [its] eco-friendly, Hf-free purification technology can deliver a globally competitive PSG production operation”.

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