According to a report from Geosciences Australia, Australia produces half the world’s lithium, is the second-largest producer of cobalt and the fourth-largest producer of rare earths, but China still dominates critical minerals and metals markets.
In March and on the back of straining relations between China and Australia, the Australian Government committed more than $240 million to critical minerals projects in a bit to end the country’s reliance on China and cement its place in the rapidly growing global electric vehicle and battery markets.
This week battery minerals innovator Lava Blue was awarded a grant of $5.2 million from the Federal Government’s Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative to support the development of Lava Blue’s processes for refining critical minerals used in the lithium-ion battery supply chain.
Lava Blue’s managing director Michael McCann said the grant was a significant one which would contribute to a $12 million Queensland project over the next two-and-a-half years.
“The grant will allow Lava Blue processes to be applied to recovery of a number of valuable minerals from vanadium pentoxide processing waste, including high purity alumina and potentially magnesium and residual vanadium,” said McCann. “The outcome will be to greatly improve the economics of vanadium recovery and provide new supplies of high purity minerals into global battery supply chains.”
Along with Lava Blue’s research partner, the Queensland University of Technology, the project will see the scale-up of processes for recovery of high-purity minerals at the Lava Blue Centre for Predictive Research into Specialty Materials at Redlands Research Park in Brisbane.
High purity alumina (HPA) is used in the separator between battery anode and cathode.
“Battery minerals are not industrial metals,” McCann continued. “The high degrees of processing control required for materials to feed into battery manufacturing are at a totally different level to normal mineral processing. However, Australia is rapidly developing the capacity to produce battery materials and help drive the massive historical transition to a carbon-constrained, renewable energy future.”
Lava Blue’s chairman, Sylvia Tulloch, said battery minerals and energy metals are needed over the next two decades “so that we can displace energy services currently supplied by around five billion tonnes of coal and 36 billion barrels of oil every year.”
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