QPM granted approvals for $2.1 billion battery materials plant

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Queensland Pacific Metals (QPM) said it has received development approval to construct its Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub (TECH) project that would refine approximately 1.6 million tonnes of ore annually to produce critical materials to support the growing battery and electric vehicle (EV) industries.

The company said it had been received development approval from Townsville City Council (TCC) and environmental authority under the Environmental Protection Act. Coupled with the approval received in November from the federal government, QPM now has all primary approvals required to begin construction of the TECH project at the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct, approximately 40km south of Townsville.

“I’m delighted that all key permits have now been received for the TECH project, which is a major milestone for QPM,” QPM Managing Director and Chief Executive Dr Stephen Grocott said.

The development permit and environmental authority allow QPM to operate Stage 1 of the TECH project, notionally processing about 1.6 million tonnes of ore annually to produce approximately 16,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate and 1,750 tonnes of cobalt sulphate, as well as other valuable co-products including high-purity alumina, which are sought after chemicals for use in the emerging EV battery manufacture.

QPM said the project, which the advanced feasibility study estimated would require a capital investment of $2.1 billion, is backed by world-class shareholders including US automotive giant General Motors which has committed up to $108 million toward sourcing nickel and cobalt to power their EVs.

QPM also has offtake agreements in place to sell product to Korean companies LG Energy Solutions, the world’s largest battery manufacturer, and POSCO.

“The TECH project was developed in response to the growing demand for battery materials for electric vehicles, particularly nickel and cobalt,” Grocott said. “Once operational the project will be a world-leading zero waste, carbon negative, sustainable, clean and green production facility.”

Townsville City Council has commenced construction of an access road connecting to QPM’s site.

Image: TCC

This is the second development application to be approved over land within the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct with Edify Energy’s plans for a 1 GW green hydrogen production plant, as well as a behind-the-meter solar and battery storage facility, receiving approval in late 2021.

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill said the approval for the TECH project is a key step in the council’s ambition to create northern Australia’s first environmentally sustainable advanced manufacturing precinct.

“Townsville is ready to go to the next level when it comes to developing an advanced manufacturing, hydrogen and renewable energy hub, and Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct is key to this,” she said.

“As well as QPM, that confidence has been backed by companies such as Edify, RTE Energy, Solquartz, Origin Energy Future Fuels and North Queensland Gas Pipeline, all signing on to operate at the precinct.”

As part of developing the precinct, TCC will construct key supporting infrastructure including access roads and water supply with the state and federal governments tipping in $74 million to build the infrastructure.

Council has already started construction of an access road that connects to QPM’s Lansdown site. Work on the access road is expected to be completed in early 2023.

QPM said completion of this access road would allow for preliminary site establishment works to begin. These are expected to commence in March or April of 2023.

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