Australian government sees economic potential in vanadium

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In a formal recognition of the national strategic significance of the project, the Australian Federal Government has granted ‘major project status’ to a high-grade vanadium project proposed by Perth-based Australian Vanadium. The project will develop an open pit mine and plant to convert vanadium into specialty steel alloys and batteries.

With ‘major project status’ awarded to private sector-initiated projects that are significant to Australia’s economic development, the Australian Vanadium project is expected to create direct and indirect jobs in the Mid-West region, including opportunities for regional and national suppliers, as well as  boost the Australian vanadium market for steel and battery markets.

“Vanadium is on the critical minerals list for Australia and the US, which means there is a market there for this globally significant resource,” Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said last week. “This project will have a significant impact on the Western Australian economy, especially the Meekatharra region with the creation of around 400 direct construction jobs and a further 200 ongoing jobs.”

The ‘major project status’, which has been awarded for the period of three years, will give project proponents a single point of contact for assistance with navigating the approval process and relevant government legislation. “This streamlined approach has the potential to result in accelerated approvals,” the company said in a statement to ASX.

The Australian Vanadium project consists of a high-grade V-Ti-Fe deposit located approximately 43 km south of the mining town of Meekatharra. It is based on a proposed open pit mine; crushing, milling and beneficiation plant and refining plant for final conversion and sale of high quality vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) for use in steel, specialty alloys and energy storage markets.

The project’s total mineral resource of 183.6Mt at 0.76% vanadium pentoxide (V2O5). Proved ore reserves amount to 9.82 million tonnes at 1.07% and the project holds a probable reserve of 8.42 million tonnes at 1.01%. With the project currently progressing through the feasibility studies, first production from the Australian Vanadium mine is expected in 2022.

Meanwhile the company has also installed a vanadium electrolyte plant at the University of Western Australia, where it has made battery-grade vanadium electrolyte. Last month, Australian Vanadium signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with EPC provider and supplier of high-end critical uninterruptible power supply systems Metrowest Power Systems, to pursue opportunities for deployment of VRFB technology in Australia. The companies hope to push forward with larger projects and pave the way for the technology to demonstrate its strengths.

This article was amended on Sept 11 to reflect that fact that no concessional loan was extended for the vanadium mining and processing project through the NAIF, as previously reported.