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New opportunities in critical minerals revealed

Geoscience Australia
Geoscience Australia

The industry could make a lot of money if it invests in these new growth areas, a new publication has revealed.

Geoscience Australia claims the industry could become a major global supplier of minerals needed for 21st Century technologies. The Critical Minerals in Australia report, prepared by RMIT University and Monash University, reveals new and emerging technologies will need critical minerals.

“The growing list of new and emerging technologies using critical minerals includes advanced manufacturing and health applications, rechargeable batteries, renewable energy systems and electric cars,” Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said in a public statement. “We are one of the world’s top five producers of antimony, cobalt, lithium and rare earths, minerals rated as ‘critical’ by the US, UK or EU.”

The report predicts there will be strong demand for chromite, platinum-group elements, vanadium, phosphate rock and tungsten.

“Some of these projects rely on new mines (e.g. Dubbo-Toongi, SCONI), which are under active assessment by owner companies, whilst some are now at pilot stage such as Browns Range, which opened its pilot plant in July 2018 to begin producing a xenotime-based heavy REE concentrate product (especially dysprosium, terbium),” the report said. “Other critical mineral production could be secured through additional separation and marketing of products from existing mines or from smelters and refineries (e.g. indium, gallium and germanium from zinc refineries, gallium from alumina refineries).”

However, the industry will also need to invest in research if it is going to make the most of these new mining opportunities.

“In the short term recommendations include: Improving the critical minerals knowledge base, improving geochemical association models, improving estimation of production costs, and undertaking consumer and supplier mineral criticality assessments for Australia,” the report said. “In the medium term: Undertaking critical mineral systems analysis, modelling supply scenarios, increasing awareness of critical minerals opportunities for smelters/refineries, improving understanding of the metallurgical behaviour of critical minerals during ore processing, develop methods to recover critical minerals from mine waste and improving processing technology. And in the long term: Conducting material flow analyses.”

The government hopes the report will help the domestic industry reaches its full potential as a global supplier of critical minerals.

“We also announced critical minerals projects would be prioritised in the latest industry funding round, which closes on March 28,” Canavan said. “By investing in critical minerals, we’re helping to grow our resources sector, driving the nation’s economy and creating more jobs.”

Click here to read the full report.

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