ABx Group finalises preliminary engineering design for pilot plant facility in New South Wales

ABx Group (ASX:ABX) reports its 83% owned subsidiary, ALCORE, has completed the preliminary engineering design phase for a pilot plant facility in New South Wales.

The company says it has now finalised the plant capacity and general layout, along with the comprehensive process flow, piping and instrumentation diagrams, raw material storage and waste management plans, process safety and control philosophies, and sizing of major equipment.

The completion of this work allows ABx to undertake detailed engineering design of the pilot plant in partnership with several engineering suppliers, including several overseas manufacturers.


Additionally, ALCORE is progressing site preparation works with the pilot facility to utilise space at the ALCORE Technology Centre in Berkeley Vale on the Central Coast of New South Wales.

As part of these preparatory works, ALCORE has entered discussions with contractors for civil and electric infrastructure work. Additionally, ABx is also progressing all necessary permits and approvals with local authorities.

Meanwhile, ALCORE has further cemented its pilot plant development pathway with the order of an advanced laboratory reactor for enhanced processing of excess bath material.

Commenting on ALCORE’s progress, ABx Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director Mark Cooksey says it is ‘exceptionally pleasing’ to see progress accelerating at ALCORE.

“The company has the opportunity to solve an increasing waste issue for global aluminium smelters while also producing a necessary smelting additive, which is not only high-value but, for many countries including Australia, is subject to significant supply risks.

The pilot plant remains on track to be constructed by the end of CY2023″

The completion of the preliminary engineering design and order of a crucial laboratory bath reactor are 2 major milestones towards demonstrating the process at pilot scale. The pilot plant remains on track to be constructed by the end of CY2023.”

The company has been reacting sulfuric acid (oleum) with bath to recover fluorine at a laboratory scale, and with initial operating conditions identified, the pilot plant will seek to evaluate these conditions at a greater scale.

ABx says the feed materials must immediately be mixed during the reaction to maximise the consumption of feed materials and the quality of final products. These are important for process economics and customer acceptance.

The earlier results at a laboratory scale were limited by the extent of process mixing that could be achieved. However, in 2023, ALCORE identified an international supplier that could manufacture a reactor that employs ‘state-of-the-art’ technology to enhance the process mixing, which the company says is critical to achieving high fluorine yield.

Following further due diligence, the reactor technology has been determined to be ‘highly advantageous’ for ALCORE, with an order now placed. Delivery to the ALCORE Technology Centre is expected to occur in Q3 2023.

ABx reports experiments will be conducted on this reactor in parallel with the pilot plant construction after the reactor has been delivered and installed.

These experiments will include confirmatory work on ALCORE’s selected range of process conditions, with the improved reactor expected to deliver greater yields. ABx says these results will enable tests on the pilot plant to be more effective.

ABx Group is an Australian technology business focused on developing REEs at its bauxite projects in Tasmania, along with aluminium fluoride for aluminium smelters and lithium-ion batteries.

The company’s portfolio of assets includes the Deep Leads-Rubble Mound REE Project in Tasmania, the Sunrise Bauxite Project in Queensland, and the Penrose Bauxite Project in New South Wales.

Additionally, ABx holds an 83% interest in ALCORE, which is a chemicals company that uses ‘advanced’ fluorine chemistry for processing minerals and other materials.

Write to Harry Mulholland at Mining.com.au

Images: ABx Group Ltd
Written By Harry Mulholland
Hailing from the Central Coast region of NSW, Harry is a passionate journalist with a background in print, radio and ESG news. When not bashing away on his keyboard, he can be found brewing a coffee or playing with his dog.