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$1.4B NQ metal project reaches final stage of approval

Excavation work at the Australian Mines Sconi Project in Central Queensland.

A gold and base metals mining company has progressed to the final stage of approval for its $1.4 billion exotic metals project in North Queensland.

Australian Mines has secured prescribed project status from the Queensland Government for its Sconi Cobalt-Nickel-Scandium Project in Greenvale, about 250km northwest of Townsville.

The status will help the proponent navigate through the last steps of regulatory approval and fast-track future development at the project. It enables Queensland Coordinator-General Barry Broe to intervene in the approvals process to ensure timely decision-making as required.

“Minister Cameron Dick has formally recognised the regional economic development potential of our Sconi Project in regional North Queensland with this decision,” Australian Mines managing director Benjamin Bell said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Australian Mines has committed to a predominantly residential workforce as part of the project’s bankable feasibility study dated November 1, as well as locally procuring most of the services and suppliers in the greater region throughout the project’s 18-year lifespan worth $922 million of total capital expenditure.

“We prepared a bankable feasibility study on Sconi with the sincere target of allocating 90 per cent of the ongoing annual operational expenditure to local businesses from the surrounding Charters Towers and Townsville local government areas,” Bell said. “We have also committed to significant upgrades to local infrastructure in the Greenvale region including upgrading the water supply, regional public roads and the Greenvale regional airport as well as the construction of an accommodation village and establishment of a 24/7 medical facility.”

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk welcomed the project, saying it will deliver much-needed jobs for the region.

“It’s a very happy New Year for North Queensland,” she said in a public statement. “We’re talking about a project set to create up to 500 jobs during its two-year construction period, and we’ll see more than 300 full-time equivalent jobs for the 18-year operational period.”

At least 80 per cent of the workforce will be employed from the local region according to the proponent, which also plans to invest $500,000 each year in training and skills development for process workers, giving priority to youth and Indigenous people.

The project involves producing nickel, cobalt and scandium to be used in battery manufacturing, electric vehicles and similar high technology applications for export markets.

Two million tonnes of ore per annum will be processed at the Greenvale site, which is each year expected to produce an average of 8500 tonnes of cobalt, 53,500 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 77 tonnes of scandium oxide.

“Upgrades to local Greenvale infrastructure will be made by the proponent,” State Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Cameron Dick said. “This will help improve water supply, regional public roads and the Greenvale regional airport, while an accommodation village and 24/7 medical facility will also be constructed.”

Construction is hoped to start before the end of the year, and the proponent plans to open a regional office in either Townsville, Charters Towers or Greenvale shortly.

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