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St Elmo fires up with $250m spark for new green energy economy

Business

Multicom Resources has been granted approval and will start development of Queensland’s first vanadium mine, a $250 million project in the state’s north-west that could help fuel the transition to renewables.

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It came as the State Government also announced the expansion of a hydrogen project between the Government-owned generator company Stanwell Japan’s largest hydrogen supplier Iwatani.

Four new members – three Japanese companies and an Australian business – will join the Stanwell-Iwatani consortium which will start a $10.4 million feasibility study into the development of that large-scale renewable hydrogen facility.

Joining the consortium will be Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Kansai Electric Power Company, Marubeni and Australian pipeline company APA Group.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said it was a show of international confidence in Queensland’s growing reputation as an ideal location for renewable hydrogen projects. 

In relation to the vanadium mine, the Premier said Multicom was “the first cab off the rank in an exciting new era for Queensland’s resources sector’’.

She said Saint Elmo, near Julia Creek, was the first mine approved in a potential vanadium hub in the far north-west, with other companies progressing other potential mines.

Queensland has massive resources of vanadium, a mineral used in steel strengthening but also as a foundation for rechargeable batteries.

Palaszczuk announced the approval of the project along with Multicom Resources’ chief executive Shaun McCarthy who said the mine construction was planned to start next year, supporting 250 jobs at peak, with first production forecast for late 2023.

“Saint Elmo is initially forecast to produce up to 5000 tonnes per annum of vanadium pentoxide, supporting at least 150 mine jobs and operating for up to 20 years,” McCarthy said.

“As the project expands production to 20,000 tonnes per annum over time, there’ll be an additional 100 operational and 150 construction jobs created.

“We expect around three-quarters of the workforce to either live in Julia Creek or McKinlay Shire, or to travel from surrounding communities of Cloncurry, Richmond and Mount Isa. ”

The mine will need the clearing of about 7672 hectares of native vegetation and would be a shallow open cut strip mine with backfilling and rehabilitation of disturbed areas.

QEM is another vanadium proponent in the north west, but its plans include oil shale and a potential hydrogen project.

Palaszczuk also talked up the prospects of vanadium as a new economy mineral and one that could be a significant export. Vanadium batteries are far more efficient than lithium-ion but are considerably heavier so their use is restricted to solar and wind farms as well as industry, but not in electric vehicles.

“This project, and these jobs, are a milestone in a journey that began seven years ago with the Queensland Government’s North West Minerals Province Taskforce,’’ Palaszczuk said.

“This also lays the foundation for a potential next level new industry in Queensland manufacturing vanadium redox flow batteries.”

Resources Minister Scott Stewart said the new Saint Elmo mine demonstrated the success of the Government’s approach to enabling a prosperous resources sector.

“With ore processing to occur onsite and product to be shipped globally from the Port of Townsville, Multicom will benefit from the reliable logistics solution provided by the Flinders Hwy and Queensland Rail’s Mount Isa Line” 

The Saint Elmo project was declared a prescribed project in February last year so Queensland’s Coordinator-General could streamline approvals and fast-track delivery of the project.

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