A handful of companies like QEM and Multicom are developing vanadium mines in north Queensland to meet a growing demand for the mineral used in rechargeable batteries. Vanadium batteries are considered to be better in many ways than lithium-ion, but far too heavy to be used in cars. However, they are ideal as storage batteries for facilities like wind and solar farms.
But the decision by the Palaszczuk Government is remarkable in that it will be stepping into the market which is normally left to the private sector. It’s the first of its type in Australia.
Queensland is also home to companies competing against vanadium batteries. Li-S Energy is developing its own batteries, which are also considered to be superior to lithium-ion while Novonix makes materials for use in batteries. Vecco Industries was also spending $25 million on a vanadium battery facility in Brisbane. Multicom is also in the process of developing the $250 million St Elmo’s vanadium mine.
The region around Julia Creek is considered one of the world’s best resources for vanadium.
Treasurer Cameron Dick said Australia had the world’s third-largest deposits of vanadium resources, but didn’t produce a single kilogram of processed vanadium and that was because the mining companies looking to process vanadium at an industrial scale didn’t have the capital necessary to make that jump.
The Treasurer said the new facility would be a major step forward for the state’s growing production of new economy minerals.
“We want regional Queensland to be a global leader when it comes to everything that’s part of the renewable energy revolution,” he said.
“Vanadium is used for the construction of large-scale grid batteries that store their charge in tanks of liquid.
“Because they hold their charge in a liquid form, redox batteries can be built to a much larger scale, powering larger communities for longer.
“Through our $520 million Invested in Queensland program, we will put at least $10 million towards this common-user facility, with the final amount depending on the outcome of the construction tender.”
The Townsville project will be a common user facility so it can be used by more than one company.
“This is an important step in attracting further investor interest and future off-take agreements,” Dick said.
“Once producers can see for themselves how processing occurs, they will have the confidence to invest in more manufacturing infrastructure and more jobs.
“Mining companies will be able to transport ore from their mine site to Townsville, enabling them to begin producing mineral samples at scale.”
Construction is expected to start in 2022, with the plant scheduled to begin operating in 2023.
Queensland Exploration Council chair Kim Wainwright said the funding was great news for a relatively new industry that had enormous potential to become Queensland’s next exploration success story.
“This funding gives the green light for construction of a demonstration processing facility in Townsville to process a range of critical minerals, including vanadium which is earmarked as likely the first to use the facility,” Wainwright said.
“This State-owned common user facility is a first for Queensland and Australia. It sends a very strong signal to the global investment community that Queensland is seriously pursuing our critical mineral capabilities.
“This new processing facility will kickstart critical minerals production and help grow the North Queensland economy.”
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