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Queensland government backs development of critical minerals sector with support for two new projects

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By Colin Hay - 
Revolver Resources ASX RRR Heli-EM conductor targets Osprey Queensland Mt Isa inlier

Revolver Resources’ Dianne project in Queensland previously produced 63,758t of ore grading 22.7% copper.


At the same time as it is concluding an Asian trade mission with critical minerals as a major topic, the Queensland government has provided significant support to two new projects in the state.

The government recently handed Alpha HPA (ASX: A4N) a more than $21 million grant under its Industry Partnership Program grant to help fund Stage 2 of a $300 million, world class high purity alumina (HPA) project in Gladstone.

It is estimated the development of the plant will create up to 117 jobs and stronger supply chain links between critical mineral production and local manufacturing.

The project will produce HPA and related HPA precursor products in Gladstone using Alpha HPA’s proprietary licenced solvent extraction and refining technology.

Growing Queensland’s critical minerals processing capability

Steven Miles – who filled in as Acting Premier, while Premier Tania Palaszczuk led the trade mission to Japan, South Korea and Singapore – said the creation of a diverse and sustainable supply chains will be a key focus of the Queensland Battery Industry Strategy that is due to be released later this year.

“Investments like Alpha HPA’s are growing Queensland’s critical minerals processing capability and ensuring new industries have the materials to deliver safe, sustainable, high performing products to market,” he said.

“The Queensland Government’s Industry Partnership Program is one way we are supporting the growth of companies like Alpha HPA in priority industry sectors.”

“In 2021, Alpha HPA chose Queensland as the home for this exciting project, fast forward to today and the company can now move ahead to Stage 2 and plan for full-scale production thanks to assistance from the Palaszczuk Government.”

Alpha HPA welcomes state’s recognition

Alpha HPA managing director, Rimas Kairaitis, said the company welcomed the state’s recognition of opportunities in the production and processing of critical minerals for new-economy products.

“Assistance through the government’s Industry Partnership Program for the HPA First Project builds further momentum for the project and further growth of local supply chains.”

“In 2021 we signed the Central Queensland Statement of Cooperation with the Queensland Government, this commitment provided certainty for established and new industries in the Gladstone region to contribute to the goal of net zero emissions manufacturing.”

Following completion of Stage 2 of the project, Alpha’s low-carbon process technology will enable extraction and purification of aluminium from an industrial feedstock to produce 4N (>99.99% purity) alumina and 5N (>99.999% purity) aluminium salts for sale into high technology markets for products.

Significance of HPA

HPA was added to the Australian critical minerals list in 2022. It is a high-purity form of aluminium oxide (Al2O3) and is usually manufactured through the hydrolysis of aluminium oxide, hydrochloric acid leaching, underwater spark discharge with aluminium and vapour-phase oxidation processes.

A bright and non-metallurgical alumina product it is non-corrosive and valued for its superior properties and characteristics.

HPA has extensive applications in manufacturing artificial sapphire substrates, light-emitting diode (LED) lights, semiconductor wafers, ceramics, phosphors, synthetic gemstones, smartphone components, and glass for wristwatches, optical windows and televisions.

Notably, there is no substitute material for HPA in the manufacture of synthetic sapphire.

Increasingly, HPA is seeing strong demand for use in lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries, where it is used as a coating on the ceramic cathodic separator sheets.

Australian Mines receives approval for Sconi project

Alpha’s HPA plant is not the only critical minerals project to win the support of the Queensland government.

Australian Mines (ASX: AUZ) has received all important mining lease (ML) approval for its proposed Sconi cobalt, nickel and scandium critical minerals project in North Queensland.

The estimated $1.4 billion project has a planned life of 30 years, processing two million tonnes of ore per year with the project planned for commissioning in 2028.

Once operational, the open-cut mine and the adjoining processing plant are expected to produce about 47,000 tonnes of nickel sulphate, 7,000 tonnes of cobalt sulphate and 89 tonnes of scandium oxide.

Resources sector creating jobs

Queensland resources minister, Scott Stewart, said the Sconi project is a vote of confidence in Queensland’s resources sector and could create around 780 new jobs for the state’s north.

“The Palaszczuk Government is backing the development of the state’s critical minerals sector through the recently released Queensland Critical Minerals Strategy as well as our $5 billion Copperstring 2032 electricity transmission line.”

“And planning is well underway on the $75 million Queensland Resources Common User facility, a multi-user, multi- purpose warehouse designed to prove up the commercial viability of critical minerals in Queensland.”

Australian Mines has confirmed it is in discussions into the potential of creating a strategic collaborative partnership for the development of the Sconi battery minerals project.