An Australian-first critical minerals demonstration facility which will be expanded to include more than just vanadium will be built in Townsville to unlock Queensland’s next mining and manufacturing boom.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the $75 million facility – more than seven times the original investment – will be located at Cleveland Bay Industrial Park between the existing Sun Metals zinc refinery and Glencore Copper refinery. “Queensland has the sunshine and wind above the ground combined with the critical minerals below the ground to make batteries and renewables with renewable energy,” the Premier said.
“After working with prospective users, universities, and research centres the facility will not only be able to process vanadium, a key component of large-scale batteries, but it will be expanded allowing for a range of critical minerals like cobalt and rare earth elements to be processed.
“This facility will prove up the commerciality of critical minerals in Queensland creating jobs not just in mining but in processing and manufacturing. “Critical minerals are needed to build the SuperGrid, batteries and the wind and solar farms under the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan. “North Queensland provided the copper during the second industrial revolution to transport electricity and now stands at the centre of the clean energy industrial revolution.”
The Premier made the announcement while visiting the Sun Metals green industrial precinct. “Sun Metals is not just the largest private employer in Townsville, it is a world leading green industrial precinct processing the zinc needed for wind towers and batteries with renewable energy and using hydrogen to store and transport renewable energy,” the Premier said. “In 2018 I travelled to South Korea to meet with Korea Zinc to support the business case for the expansion of this zinc refinery and I am so pleased to be back here today to see the results of that investment. “By partnering with all levels of government Sun Metals and Ark Energy have paved the way for future critical minerals processing plants in North Queensland. “Already we have seen Queensland Pacific Metals secure an agreement with General Motors to supply minerals for electric vehicle batteries. “The opportunities in North Queensland include mining and processing the minerals for vanadium, zinc bromine and iron flow batteries, cobalt and nickel used in lithium-ion batteries, high-purity alumina for LEDs, batteries and semiconductors, rare earth elements used in electronics and silicon for solar panels and semiconductors.” Minister for Resources Scott Stewart said there was enormous potential for vanadium mining and production in North Queensland. “Vanadium had come a long way from first being used in the Ford Model T Car over a century ago to now being used in batteries with twice the life span of lithium-ion batteries,” he said. “Global demand for vanadium in batteries and high-quality steel is expected to outpace supply before the end of the decade. Queensland has world class, highly economic deposits of vanadium located in accessible marine shale.
“Because they hold their charge in a liquid form, vanadium redox batteries can be built to a much bigger scale, powering larger communities for longer.”
“Vanadium has the potential to be the Eureka moment for North Queensland. “This facility will also support further extraction of high purity alumina, cobalt and rare earths.” “There is already interest from companies in using the facility and once the market sees the quality of Queensland’s valuable resources for themselves, they will have confidence to invest in commercial scale facilities and downstream manufacturing infrastructure creating thousands of good skilled jobs for Queenslanders.” Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper welcomed the announcement.
“We know there is great potential to develop even more of a critical minerals industry in North Queensland and this announcement will help that happen,” Mr Harper said.
“As a government we continue to support projects like this will are supporting good jobs in Townsville.”
Investment opportunities for North Queensland include:
- Becoming a global supplier of vanadium and manufacturer of flow batteries;
- The supply of cobalt and nickel precursors for lithium batteries used in electric cars; Extraction of high purity alumina needed to make sapphire glass for LEDs, battery separators, and semiconductors;
- Mining and processing of rare earth elements used in electronics and advanced manufacturing; and
- Mining of high purity quartz and potential silicon production used to make solar panels and semiconductors.
The facility is part of a $150 million commitment announced in the 2022-2023 State Budget Update in December 2022 for common user infrastructure to support the development, extraction and production of critical minerals.
The $100 million Critical Minerals Investment Fund managed by Queensland Investment Corporation will further support Australian businesses to compete globally and make batteries and advanced materials in Queensland with minerals mined from Queensland
The facility is a key action under the Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan, and supports the delivery of the $62 billion Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan and the transformation of Queensland’s energy system to deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy to provide power for generations.
It’s expected to commence operations by the first half of 2025.
Information on applications for critical minerals and rare earths is available at https://www.resources.qld.gov.au/mining-exploration/initiatives/critical-minerals/uses-of-critical-minerals and https://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/minerals/mineral-resources-and-advice/australian-resource-reviews/rare-earth-elements