Nothing middle-of-the-road about Australia’s midstream processing

Upstream opportunities are extremely prevalent within Australia’s mining sector, as a nation well-endowed with minerals and natural resources and a long history of exploration. 

Yet, in its latest ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’, the federal government highlights the country’s burgeoning and advancing critical mineral processing capabilities. 

The prospectus outlines how midstream processing is touted as an increasingly important yet overlooked cog in the country’s minerals and metals supply chain.

A collaborative and supportive ecosystem in addition to a highly educated workforce means there are significant reasons to further develop Australia’s midstream processing capabilities. 

The non-exhaustive list of advanced midstream projects in the prospectus have been chosen by the government as they exemplify just how crucial this aspect of the market is across the critical minerals supply chain.

Burgeoning battery market

One such example is Greenstone Resources (ASX:GSR) and Conico (ASX:CNJ) which have helped Australia dip its toes into the battery precursor production sector, via its Mt Thirsty Cobalt-Nickel Joint Venture Project in Western Australia. 

The company’s Mt Thirsty project aims to become the first fully integrated cathode precursor producer. 

According to the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, battery precursor production is considered a ‘crucial’ step to add value to the battery industry. At the same time, there are currently no facilities for this in Australia. 

In April 2023, the Mt Thirsty JV partners appointed a team of consultants to undertake a Scoping Study. While largely complete, the study assesses several optimisations, including the adoption of HPAL and production of Precursor Cathode Active Material (pCAM), a high-value product made of cobalt, nickel, and manganese. 

Precursor Cathode Active Material is an essential constituent used in the manufacturing of high-performance lithium-ion batteries and typically receives a 50% pricing premium over intermediatory products such as MHP and MSP given its added value and use and demand in application for battery manufacturing.

Comparable HPAL projects typically receive cobalt and nickel recoveries of 90% and 92%, respectively.

The project contains the Mt Thirsty cobalt-nickel oxide deposit with a reported mineral resource of 66.2 million tonnes @ 0.06% cobalt; 0.43% nickel and 0.45%.

In the Western Australian government’s ‘2023 Battery and Critical Minerals Strategy’, it is highlighted that nearly $9 billion has been invested since 2015 in projects manufacturing battery chemicals, such as nickel and cobalt, as well as separate rare earth oxides. 

Growing importance of rare earths 

According to the South Australian government’s Department for Energy and Mining rare earth elements (REE) are also ‘vitally important’ in modern technologies due to their unique electrical, magnetic, catalytic, metallurgical, nuclear, and luminescent properties. 

Geoscience Australia reports in 2018 Australia was marked sixth in the world’s economic resources of rare earths, totalling 3% of the world total. 

Iluka Resources (ASX:ILU) is one company that helps contribute to that 3%, as it aims to build a fully integrated rare earths refinery through its Eneabba Project in Western Australia. 

Eneabba will produce individual rare earth oxides initially from concentrate produced at Iluka’s 1 million tonne rare earths Eneabba stockpile. Subsequently, it will be fed by rare earths from the company’s Australian operations and from third parties, including the Northern Minerals’ (ASX:NTU) Browns Range Project. 

On 15 December 2023, the company announced the Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) for Eneabba will be finalised in Q1 2024, as the company and Fluor Australia are currently reviewing value optimisation measures and operational efficiency improvements. 

The company forecasts Eneabba to produce between 17,500tpa and 23,000tpa rare earths oxide. 

Eneabba is being funded through the help of the Australian government’s Critical Mineral Facility. 

In late October 2023, the Albanese government announced a $2 billion expansion in critical minerals financing, which took the government’s investments in Australian resources to $6 billion, helping companies develop projects such as Iluka’s Eneabba.

Meanwhile, New South Wales is an emerging state to host critical minerals projects in midstream processing stages. 

Australian Strategic Minerals (ASX:ASM) plans to build a vertically integrated mine and processing plant through its flagship Dubbo Project. Dubbo will produce individual rare earth oxides, zirconia, ferroniobium, and hafnium oxide onsite. 

In late 2021, Australian Strategic completed an optimisation study and in 2023 completed stage one engineering, procurement, and construction definition (EPCD).

Currently, Dubbo is construction ready, with all major permits approved. The project is forecasted to produce 1,342tpa neodymium and praseodymium oxide, 22tpa terbium, 142tpa dysprosium oxide, 16,000tpa zirconia, 2,650tpa ferroniobium, and 30tpa hafnium oxide. 

Australian Strategic Minerals says in the long-term, the materials produced from the Dubbo project will be used for refining into critical metals at its proposed metals plants, the first of which is in South Korea. 

Scandium in Queensland 

Alongside rare earths, scandium has been recognised for having a growing strategic importance in the world, as it was reflected in the US Government’s 2018 list of 35 critical minerals, as per Geoscience Australia. 

Geoscience Australia says scandium is used in the production of alloys for the aerospace industry, lighting applications, ceramics, lasers, and electronics. 

Australia’s scandium resources occur in Queensland, Western Australia, and New South Wales but none are currently mined. 

Australia’s scandium resources occur in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia but none are currently mined

That is where Scandium International Mining Corp (TSX:SCY) comes in as the company plans to produce scandium oxide for use in soil-oxide fuel cells, 3D printing, and aluminium-scandium master alloys from its Nyngan Scandium Project in New South Wales. 

The company’s Nyngan project aims to be the world’s first scandium-only mine development project. 

In May 2016, a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) was completed, which highlighted the capital cost estimation for the project is US$87.1 million and the operating cost estimate for the project is US$557 per kilogram scandium oxide. 

The study concluded that Nyngan has the potential to produce an average of 37,690 kilograms of scandium oxide per year, at grades of 98% to 99.9%, generating an after tax cumulative cash flow over a 20-year project life of US$629 million, with a net present value (NPV10%) of US$177 million. 

Presently, the project requires suitable short to medium term offtake agreements with customers, for a meaningful portion of phase one product output, in order to take final investment decision and finance/construct. Scandium International Mining is continuing to pursue offtake. 

VIP vanadium: Very Important Projects

Another VIP commodity that contributes to seizing the renewable energy opportunity is the hard, silver-grey metallic element, named vanadium. 

Vanadium plays a role as a critical and battery metal and the demand for the metal continues to grow, as it is used to make steel alloys and incorporated into the medical sphere to treat a number of ailments. 

Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL), which has a market capitalisation of $189 million, is focused on developing its namesake vanadium project, which forecasts production of 11,200tpa high-purity vanadium pentoxide and 900,000tpa iron-titanium (FeTi), which is 54% Fe, co-product. 

The Australian Vanadium Project consists of a ‘high-grade’ vanadium-titanium-iron deposit in the Murchison Province in Western Australia and covers a 200km-square area.

In 2022, the company completed a Bankable Feasibility Study (BFS), which confirmed the project as a potentially globally ‘significant’ primary vanadium producer targeting critical mineral, steel, and energy storage. 

The project’s anticipated initial mine life is 25 years and has a pre-tax net present value (NPV) of $833 million and equity internal rate of return (IRR) of 20.6% based on US$10.50 per pound vanadium oxide price.

According to Australian Vanadium, the project is considered one of the most ‘advanced’ vanadium projects being developed in the world. 

The vanadium project was awarded Federal Major Project Status by the Australian government in 2019 in recognition of its national strategic significance and State Lead Agency Status by the Western Australian government in 2020 due to its importance as a battery and critical mineral project. 

A second vanadium project of significance is Technology Metals Australia’s (ASX:TMT) Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) in Western Australia, which comprises the Gabanintha and Yarrabubba vanadium projects. 

On 25 September 2023, Mining.com.au reported that both Australian Vanadium and Technology Metals agreed to a $217 million merger in a synergistic bid to become Australia’s ‘largest’ vanadium developer and the first operating primary vanadium producer. 

Technology Metals announced on 1 February 2024 that it had officially merged with Australian Vanadium and was removed from the Australian Securities and Exchange (ASX) the following day. 

Prior to the merger, Technology Metals was focused on developing the MTMP which has a forecast production of 12,500tpa high-purity vanadium pentoxide and 96,500tpa ilmenite. 

In late 2019, Technology Metals completed a DFS for Gabanintha, while the Yarrabubba integration study was completed in mid-2022. The study integrated the ‘high-grade’ Yarrabubba deposit into the MTMP mine plan, resulting in extending the mine life out to 25 years and generating a dual revenue stream of vanadium pentoxide and ilmenite. 

Combined, the  vanadium projects contain 153.7 million tonnes @ 0.8% vanadium pentoxide. 

In its latest ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’, the midstream processing portion also mentions cobalt projects including Cobalt Blue’s (ASX:COB) Kwinana Cobalt Refinery, Alliance Nickel’s (ASX:AXN) NiWest Project, Castile Resources’ (ASX:CST) Rover 1 Project, Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ) Sconi Project, Sunrise Energy Metals’ (ASX:SRL) Sunrise Project, and Queensland Pacific Metals (ASX:QPM) Townsville Energy Chemicals Hub. 

For lithium hydroxide production, Albemarle Corporation’s (NYSE:ALB) Kemerton Lithium Hydroxide Processing Plant, Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia’s Kwinana Lithium Hydroxide Refinery, and Covalent Lithium’s Kwinana Lithium Hydroxide Refinery. 

Precursor cathode active material projects include Pure Battery Technologies’ WA pCAM Hub, while battery anode material production projects include EcoGraf’s (ASX:EGR) Battery Anode Material Facility, Renascor Resources (ASX:RNU) Battery Anode Material Facility, and International Graphite’s (ASX:IG6) Collie Graphite Hub. 

Rare earth projects include Arafura Resources’ (ASX:ARU) Nolans Rare Earths Project, while high purity alumina projects include Alpha HPA (ASX:A4N) HPA First Project and Cadoux’s (ASX:CCM) Premium HPA Project. 

Vanadium oxide projects include Atlantic Lithium’s Windimurra Project, and magnesium metal projects include Latrobe Magnesium’s namesake valley magnesium project. 

As the federal government acknowledges this non-exhaustive list of ASX-listed companies and its midstream projects, it is further established that Australia is advancing its critical minerals processing capabilities. 

Critical minerals are indispensable elements needed for accelerating growth of clean technologies, which has been never more important. 

The critical minerals that have been recognised in this latest prospectus on developing the midstream in Australia are vanadium, scandium, rare earths, magnesium, nickel, lithium, graphite, and high-purity alumina. 

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au   

Images: Australian Strategic Minerals, AVL, & Australian government
Author Image
Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.

Untapped: Australia ‘underexplored’ despite rich endowment

In 2022, Australia spent more than $4 billion on mineral exploration, which is a 13% increase from 2021.

Critically, in decade to 2021 Australia accounted for 18% of all discoveries and since 2015 the country generated the greatest return on investment in the world achieving better ‘bang-per-buck’ than their foreign counterparts.

Included in the total 2022 spend was exploration for battery and critical metals such as lithium and rare earth elements (REEs), which increased by 66% to $483 million, according to the latest ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’.

Until recently, most Australian mineral discoveries were either exposed at surface or had some form of surface expression that could easily be detected by geological, geochemical, or geophysical exploration methods.

However, as the most recent ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’  highlights, there is absolutely no reason to suppose that resources will only be found near the surface. With most of the continent still underexplored there are many potential resources yet to be undiscovered.

Australia’s federal, state, and territory geological surveys provide ‘world-leading’ precompetitive geoscience to accelerate new mineral discovery and development.

As per the prospectus, Geoscience Australia’s $225 million Exploring for the Future program is the country’s premier investment in precompetitive geoscience aimed at progressing ‘world-class’, Australia-wide, geological, geochemical, and geophysical data coverages.

From these coverages, a national inventory of resource potential is emerging and informing regional projects, where government geoscience is further reducing risks for explorers.

Biggest ‘bang-per-buck’

Since 2015, Australia’s share of global exploration expenditure has risen 10% to 18%. The prospectus notes that over the same period the country generated the greatest return on investment in the world.

In terms of performance, as mentioned Australian companies exploring in-country achieved a ‘bang-per-buck’ (value-to-cost ratio) of 1.63 versus only 1.02 for foreign companies, suggesting a very strong ‘hometown’ advantage for local players.

Surprisingly, Australian companies also performed well exploring overseas with a ‘bang-per-buck’ of 1.56. Value-to-cost ratio or ‘bang-per-buck’ refers to the value generated per every dollar spent, and whether it created (rather than destroyed) value.

between the period 2012 and 2021 Australia accounted for 18% of all discoveries by number

What’s worth reiterating is that between the period 2012 and 2021 Australia accounted for 18% of all discoveries by number.

As the prospectus notes, precompetitive geoscience has been vital to supporting this value creation, underpinning three quarters of the 8 world-class discoveries made in Australia since 2017.

Australia’s geological surveys collaborate as to support the development of the minerals sector.

The ‘Australia minerals team’ provides coordinated and strategic actions to, among others, highlight investment opportunities; explain the nation’s competitive advantages; promote precompetitive data; provide unrivalled expertise about Australia’s geology, resource potential, mining regulations, and exploration and development initiatives in the country.

Critical mineral discovery potential

Critical mineral deposits are the consequence of Earth processes that concentrate elements, termed mineral systems. A mineral of interest can be concentrated in a number of different systems and accompanied by other commodities.

The ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’  sheds light on some of the particularly notable mineral systems across the country with the potential to supply critical minerals.

Felsic igneous-related rare earth elements (REEs), lithium, tungsten, niobium, tantalum, beryllium, and bismuth occur in known deposits and have potential for additional discovery across Australia.

Interestingly, Hamelin Gold (ASX:HMG) is using bismuth as a potential pathfinder for gold as it advances its West Tanami Project in Western Australia.

Australian Critical Minerals (ASX:ACM) is an example of one junior explorer with exposure to a raft of minerals and is developing a portfolio in Western Australia prospective for gold, lithium, and REEs in a bid to play a pivotal role in delivering minerals needed for a clean energy future.

Lodestar (ASX:LSR) has a focus in both the base and precious metals markets. The company last month as began a review of all drilling, geochemical, and geophysical data gathered from its Earaheedy Project in Western Australia after completing a maiden diamond core drilling program. 

Tungsten is incredibly critical to green technology and Group 6 Metals (ASX:G6M) is one of a few developing such a project with the Dolphin Tungsten Mine based on King Island. The mine recently achieved a new daily ore processing record, more than 1,000 tonnes of high-grade ore over 24 hours, marking a steady climb towards its nameplate production capacity. This equates to an hourly throughput of 44tph or 73% of the design nameplate capacity.

Group 6’s Bold Head Tungsten deposit is also planning to be developed as a satellite mine to the larger Dolphin mine, supplying the existing processing plant. The Bold Head mining lease has been granted, Full Feasibility Studies are underway and EPA Tasmania referral is targeted for the H2 2024. Offtake agreements are in place with Wolfram Bergbau und Hutten and Traxys for 65% of the first 4 years production.

While there’s a myriad of companies in the rare earths space, companies of note include ABx Group (ASX:ABX), as well as Aruma Resources (ASX:AAJ), which also has exposure to gold and lithium.

OD6 (ASX:OD6) has also identified clay hosted rare earths at its 100% owned Splinter Rock and Grass Patch projects located in the Esperance-Goldfields region of Western Australia. 

Precompetitive geoscience contribution

According to the ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’  mafic-ultramafic-related platinum group elements, chromium, and cobalt resources often occur together with nickel and copper in mafic-ultramafic igneous complexes. Precompetitive geoscience contributed to large discoveries such as the Julimar PGE-Ni-Cu-Au-Co deposit near Perth in Western Australia.

Australian sedimentary basins host critical and strategic minerals such as magnesium, manganese, nickel, and vanadium. Of these, manganese, magnesium, and nickel are currently mined in the country.

Advanced exploration projects have identified significant resources of magnesite (source of magnesium) and vanadium (plus nickel and molybdenum).

Manganese explorer and developer Black Canyon (ASX:BCA) listed in 2021 and has the largest manganese deposit in Western Australia and second largest in Australia, in the ‘underexplored’ Balfour Manganese Field.

Newly merged entities Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) and Technology Metals Australia are on track to become the first primary producer of vanadium in Australia. With a BFS released April 2022, extensive pilot testwork completed and mining lease granted, the Australian Vanadium Project is one the most advanced vanadium projects in the world.

Since merging with Technology Metals, the company now owns the Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) – one of the world’s highest grade primary vanadium projects, with feasibility studies confirming it will be a large-scale, low-cost, high-quality vanadium producer.

Focused on nickel are exploration companies Western Mines Group (ASX:WMG) and Great Western Exploration (GTE:ASX), the latter of which has exposure to other commodities. While in late 2023 Helix Resources (ASX:HLX) subsidiary Ionick Metals executed an option agreement with Alchemy Resources (ASX:ALY) to acquire Alchemy’s 80% JV interest in the West Lynn nickel laterite project in New South Wales. 

Moreover, the prospectus notes metamorphosed basins are also known to contain significant graphite resources. Scandium and rhenium resources are known in other geological environments.

Scratching beyond the surface

Australia’s near surface is emerging as an important search space for critical minerals. New discoveries of heavy mineral sand provinces in Australia, such as the Murray Basin, attest to the potential of the continent for further delineation of major resources, which host zirconium, titanium, and rare earth elements.

The country’s salt lakes have low potential for magnesium and lithium, but they have high potential for potash, which is now being produced in WA. Clay-hosted rare earth element deposits are also an emerging deposit style in Australia, with the potential to host large volumes of heavy rare earth elements.

ABx is progressing a project with ionic adsorption clay rare earths resources in Tasmania.

High purity alumina (HPA) is aluminium oxide with very low levels of impurities, which can be produced primarily from kaolin clay or processed bauxite. Impact Minerals (ASX:IPT), for example, has exposure to HPA among other minerals and metals. Interestingly, Metro Mining (ASX:MMI) is the only pure-play bauxite miner on the ASX.

Silicon for high-tech applications is produced from high-purity quartz (HPQ) with a purity greater than 99% silica. HPQ occurs through a variety of natural processes and a broad range of geological mineral systems, such as hydrothermal veins, gravels, and quartz-rich granites.

Metallica Car

Metallica Minerals (ASX:MLM) is one such company developing a silica sands project in Australia. The company will meet with ‘prospective customers’ in Asia amid a growing interest in ‘high purity’ silica sand from its Cape Flattery Project in North Queensland.  

The visit follows the company in September 2023 supplying prospective customers with product from bulk metallurgical tests at Cape Flattery. Early stage offtake discussions are ongoing as the company continues to develop an understanding of key drivers of the growing Asia Pacific seaborne silica sand market.

Australia also has untapped resources of lesser known minerals.

Antimony, indium, gallium, and germanium are primarily byproducts of the refining of major commodities, including gold, zinc, lead, copper, aluminium, and nickel. Australia holds significant resources of these major commodities and as the prospectus notes, there is potential for new or increased production of these minerals.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Supplied & Australian government
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.

New horizon: Merger charges up Australia’s burgeoning vanadium market  

Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) has closed the books on its synergistic merger with Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL), forging what could be Australia’s first operating primary vanadium producer.

Today (1 February 2024), the tie up completed, with AVL acquiring all shares in fellow vanadium player Technology Metals Australia.

Australian Vanadium says it firmly believes the merger will unlock material benefits through the consolidation of adjoining projects on one contiguous orebody, to create one of the largest and most advanced vanadium development projects globally. 

“Today AVL, a critical and battery metal company based in Western Australia, accelerates its journey to become a global leader in the vanadium supply chain. We are all now shareholders in one stronger company and we look forward to delivering the combined benefits to all our shareholders. 

Since the announcement of the transaction in September, AVL has been working diligently with the TMT team to integrate the two projects and to assess project enhancement opportunities and development strategies which can now be unlocked by the successful completion of the merger.” 

Australian Vanadium had retained financial advisor Macquarie Capital and legal advisor Corrs Chambers Westgarth for the transaction. 

Technology Metals Australia worked with Sternship Advisers and Argonaut PCF, while DLA Piper was retained as legal advisor.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) states world economic resources of vanadium are about 19 million tonnes but total world resources exceed 63Mt. 

China currently dominates world vanadium resources with 42%, followed by Russia at 23% and Australia at 18%. 

However, Australia does not currently produce the soft, ductile, silver-grey metal, which is primarily used with iron to make metal alloys for high-strength steel production. 

On 25 September 2023, both Australian Vanadium and Technology Metals Australia agreed to a $217 million merger via a proposed scheme of arrangement, as reported by Mining.com.au. 

As announced today, the scheme has been implemented, creating a primary Australian vanadium developer through the consolidation of 2 adjoining projects across one orebody. 

Now combined, the group hosts a ‘world-class’ asset of scale in a tier-one mining jurisdiction, being the Australian Vanadium Project in Western Australia. 

As such, Australian Vanadium reports work is underway focusing on concentrate quality and coproduct optimisation to unlock reduced capital and operating costs and realise higher revenue and maximising project economics. 

The Australian Vanadium project is one of the most advanced vanadium projects currently being developed in the world, being awarded the Federal Major Project Status by the Australian government in September 2019 and State Lead Agency Status by the Western Australian government in April 2020. 

According to Australian Vanadium, Wood Group has begun work on an Optimised Feasibility Study, the first phase being the finalisation of trade off studies and informing of the preferred project development pathway for the integrated project. 

Phase one is scheduled for completion within the June quarter of 2024. 

Meanwhile, the company remains committed to other immediate priorities beyond the integration work, including finalising a combined mineral resource statement, funding and offtake for the combined project, and completing regulatory, environmental and permitting requirements. 

The company will also continue to assess downstream opportunities, including pursuing growth initiatives in the vanadium flow battery market through its wholly owned subsidiary, VSUN Energy, as well as operating its recently constructed vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility in Western Australia. 

As part of the merger with Technology Metals Australia, the company has welcomed Jo Gaines to the board as Non-Executive Director effective from today. 

Gaines was previously the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Premier of Western Australia. 

As of 31 January 2024, Australian Vanadium had $29.6 million cash at hand, with further progress payments to be received under its $49 million Modern Manufacturing Initiative grant for its namesake project. 

Vanadium has many applications and is used in various industries, including steel production, electric vehicle (EV) batteries, chemical catalysts, aerospace, as well as medical. The majority of vanadium is used in the Chinese steel industry, particularly manufacturing high-strength, low-alloy steels.

However, as the clean energy transition accelerates globally, vanadium is playing a greater role in batteries, which in turn is attracting more investor interest.  Vanadium demand in 2024 is poised to continue to be driven by steel production capacity. Prices could rise when a number of existing and new vanadium installations move to the battery market.

On AVL’s website the CEO is quoted as saying: “There are currently three primary vanadium producers in the world. AVL intends to be the fourth, just as vanadium use in batteries has moved from 1% of the market two years ago, t over 10% of the market today.

We are already seeing signs of the vanadium market disconnecting from the traditional steel-dominated supply-demand dynamic and evolving to a ‘new normal’ structural change driven by rapidly growing battery and critical metals demand.”

With over 80% of the global vanadium supply coming from Russia, China, and South Africa, we also see a strong desire from our future customers for jurisdictional supply chain diversification. Positioned in the heart of battery metals country in Western Australia, the Australian Vanadium Project is strategically positioned to provide an ethically sourced and scalable supply of vanadium to global steel, battery, and critical metals markets.

AVL’s Project is the most advanced primary vanadium development project globally, with a world-class feasibility study and extensive pilot plant testwork which ratifies our position to produce some of the world’s highest purity vanadium at a first quartile operating cost. With a project that is economic even in a traditional steel dominated market, a 25-year mine life, robust economics, scalable production optionality, and the best vanadium minds in the world on our team, we are truly excited about what the future holds for AVL, our shareholders, and our stakeholders.”

Australian Vanadium is a resource company focused on vanadium and seeks to offer its investors a unique exposure to all aspects of the vanadium value chain — from resource through to steel and energy storage opportunities. 

The company’s assets also include the Coates vanadium-platinum group elements-nickel-copper Project about 60km east of Perth, and the Nowthanna Hill Uranium and Vanadium Project about 50km south of Meekatharra.   

TMT’s Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP), located in Western Australia, comprises the Gabanintha and Yarrabubba Vanadium Projects. Combined, the two vanadium projects contain 153.7Mt at 0.8% V2O5.

Technology Metals has completed the Definitive Feasibility Study for Gabanintha in late 2019 and the Yarrabubba Integration Study was completed in mid-2022. The study has integrated the ‘high-grade’ Yarrabubba deposit into the MTMP mine plan, extending the mine life out to 25 years and generating a dual revenue stream of vanadium pentoxide and ilmenite.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Technology Metals Australia & Australian Vanadium

Author Image
Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Australian Vanadium opens Western Australian electrolyte facility

Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) has opened its vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility located in Wangara in Western Australia.  

Yesterday’s (17 January 2024) official opening comes just a day after Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) shareholders voted in favour of the scheme of arrangement in which AVL will acquire 100% of the TMT shares on issue.

The Australian Vanadium Project is one of the most advanced vanadium projects currently being developed in the world. It was awarded Federal Major Project Status by the Australian government in September 2019 in recognition of its national strategic significance and importance as a battery and critical metal project.

The Australian government supports critical minerals projects through measures including the Critical Minerals Facility and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund.

Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King opened the vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility, which has the potential to produce up to 33MWh of high-purity electrolyte per annum, catering to the growing demands of the vanadium flow battery (VFB) market.

The facility was constructed by Western Australia-based engineering company Primero Group, a subsidiary of mining services firm NRW Holdings (ASX:NWH).

Minister King says few people may know that vanadium flow batteries were actually invented in Australia.

“Australian vanadium will play a key role in the energy transition. Vanadium production is highly concentrated internationally, and it is on Australia’s Critical Minerals List.”

On display at the facility was a 78kW/220kWh VFB manufactured by Invinity Energy Systems (AIM:IES) which is destined for a Horizon Power project in Kununurra and also a prototype residential 5kW/15kWh VFB.

Australian Vanadium has used U.S. Vanadium LLC’s (USV) electrolyte manufacturing technology for the plant’s design, which the company says has de-risked construction and start-up.

USV currently manufactures vanadium electrolyte for the North American market. Australian Vanadium holds the exclusive licence for Australia and New Zealand for USV’s vanadium electrolyte manufacturing technology.

Until production of vanadium oxides from Australian Vanadium’s processing hub starts, vanadium oxide feedstock for the electrolyte facility will be sourced from USV’s production facility in the US.

In 2021, Australian Vanadium was awarded a $3.69 million federal government grant, with part of the funding allocated to building and operating a commercial vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility in Western Australia to support the commercialisation of VFBs and the design of the prototype residential battery.

Vanadium is not currently mined in Australia. Some 60% of the world’s vanadium is produced and consumed in China, with 15% is produced in Russia and 10% in South Africa. Vanadium is a critical mineral and countries around the world are looking for a stable source of supply.

Australian Vanadium plans to mine vanadium south of Meekatharra, then process the vanadium close to Geraldton at a site which can become a processing hub for the region.

The company is advancing the development of its Australian Vanadium Project at Gabanintha which is one of the most advanced vanadium projects being developed globally, with 239Mt at 0.73% vanadium pentoxide (V205) containing a high-grade zone of 95.6Mt at 1.07% V2O5 and an ore reserve of 30.9Mt @1.09% V2O5 comprised of a proved reserve of 5Mt at 1.11% V2O5 and a probable reserve of 20.4Mt @1.07% V2O5, reported in compliance with the JORC Code 2012.

Planned production from the mine site is equivalent to around 5% of current global vanadium supply.

Vanadium is classed as a critical mineral because there are no acceptable substitutes for it in aerospace titanium alloys. Vanadium alloyed steels are used in virtually every high-strength structural steel application in military equipment, including submarines, combat vehicles and aircraft.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.

TMT shareholders approve AVL scheme of arrangement

Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) shareholders have approved the previously reported merger with Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) via scheme of arrangement. 

Technology Metals will now be seeking approval of the scheme by the Supreme Court of Western Australia on 19 January 2024.

If the court approves the scheme, Technology Metals will lodge a copy of the orders of the court within the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) on 22 January 2024. 

Upon this, Technology Metals expects the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) will suspend TMT shares from trading with effect from the close of trading that day. 

If the scheme becomes effective, it is expected to be implemented on 1 February.

Subsequent to today’s (16 January) announcement, Technology Metals’ share price had jumped 6% to $0.265 as of 3.45pm AEDT. Australian Vanadium remained unchanged.

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au      

Images: Technology Metals Australia
Author Image
Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.

Australian Vanadium battery delivery on Horizon

Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) has flagged the arrival of a 220,000 kWh vanadium flow battery (VFB) for the Horizon Power Project being undertaken by its wholly owned subsidiary VSUN Energy. 

Australian Vanadium, which has a $114.27 million market capitalisation, says the battery has arrived in Fremantle and is destined for Western Australian utility Horizon Power’s site in Kununurra, where it will be used for a long duration energy storage pilot. 

Australian Vanadium will move forward with factory acceptance testing (FAT) in conjunction with Horizon Power at the latter’s vanadium electrolyte manufacturing facility. 

Testing is expected to take place in early 2024 and, during the FAT process, VSUN Energy will host a number of industry participants to view the battery. 

Once final project components are received by Horizon Power, the battery will be deployed to Kununurra for VSUN Energy to install and commission. 

The VFB, which is capable of delivering up to 78 kilowatts (kW) of power, has been supplied by global manufacturer Invinity Energy Systems (AIM:IES). 

Australian Vanadium Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Graham Arvidson says the delivery of the VFB represents another key step in its ‘pit to battery’ strategy. 

“We are looking forward to working with Horizon Power to successfully deliver this project, allowing the utility to benefit from the role that VFBs can play in enabling decarbonisation and providing reliable, low cost, long duration grid energy storage, with the potential for high levels of local content when coupled with AVL’s WA-made vanadium electrolyte.” 

Australian Vanadium is a resource company with a ‘unique’ exposure to all aspects of the vanadium value chain — from resource through to steel and energy storage opportunities. 

The company is focused on advancing the development of its namesake, ‘world-class’ Australian Vanadium Project at Gabanintha, which has a 239 million tonne (Mt) @ 0.73% vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) resource.

As of 30 September 2023, Australian Vanadium had $32.492 million cash and cash equivalents at hand, according to its latest quarterly report.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium
Author Image
Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.

Australian Vanadium inks new land agreement

Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) has signed a new option agreement with the landowner of the proposed location for its vanadium processing plant at Tenindewa, 60km east of Geraldton in Western Australia, for the Australian Vanadium Project.

In October 2019 and October 2020 the company announced that it had extended and signed an option agreement to purchase land for the Processing Plant.

Australian Vanadium has now signed the New Option Agreement which replaces the previous option agreement and allows it to define, subdivide and purchase a portion of the land under option.

The new agreement relates to an area of 1,334 acres, with a purchase price of $4,000 per acre reflecting current market prices in the region. The purchase price is payable in either cash or shares in the company, or a combination of both, at the owner’s election.

The number of Australian Vanadium shares to be issued, if any, will be determined by using the 5-day VWAP immediately preceding the date of payment.

The new option agreement provides for two 12 month option terms. The option fee for the first option term of $53,360 (plus GST) is payable immediately in cash. Australian Vanadium may exercise the second option term by issuing notice and paying the second option fee by 4 September 2024.

The option fee for the second option is to be paid in shares in Australian Vanadium with the value of $53,360 (plus GST), with the number of shares to be determined as for the first option.

The consent of the Western Australian Planning Commission is required to subdivide the Option Land. Under the agreement, Australian Vanadium is granted a licence to access the Option Land immediately for the purpose of drilling, engineering, surveying, and excavation.

We continue to progress our ‘pit to battery’ strategy as we move the Project towards production

It also contains provisions allowing the company to lease back to the landowner those parts of the Option Land that AVL does not intend to use for the project, or to sell back the option land to the landowner at the purchase price in certain circumstances.

Addressing the agreement, Australian Vanadium CEO Graham Arvidson comments: “AVL is pleased to have worked with the landowners of the Tenindewa processing plant location to establish an option agreement which benefits both parties. We continue to progress our ‘pit to battery’ strategy as we move the Project towards production.”

The project’s mine site is located some 40km south of the mining town of Meekatharra in Western Australia.

Australian Vanadium will undertake crushing, milling and beneficiation of vanadium bearing magnetite ore at the mine site location and transport the resulting concentrate to the proposed Processing Plant near Geraldton, where final refinement to high-quality, high-value vanadium products and an iron-titanium coproduct will take place.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.

Mining Green Metals listing falls over as it opts out of option agreement with Australian Vanadium

Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) has received notification that its option agreement with Mining Green Metals (MG1) will not be exercised for the sale of the Coates Ni-Cu-PGE and Nowthanna Hill Uranium projects. 

On 11 May 2022, Australian Vanadium and Mining Green Metals struck an option deal under which MG1 would acquire a full interest in the Coates and Nowthanna Hill projects from Australian Vanadium. 

As part of the deal, Mining Green Metals would aim to list on the ASX, and the bulk of the consideration for the two projects would come in the form of MG1 shares post-initial public offering (IPO). 

Australian Vanadium, which has a market capitalisation of $139.70 million, says that Mining Green Metals will no longer list on the ASX and will refund all application monies in full without interest. 

Commenting on the option agreement at the time, Australian Vanadium Managing Director Vincent Algar said in an ASX release in May: “The option agreement offers AVL shareholders continued exposure to exploration success at the Coates and Nowthanna Hill projects in a focused exploration company.

“The option agreement offers AVL shareholders continued exposure to exploration success at the Coates and Nowthanna Hill projects in a focused exploration company”

AVL will retain an interest in the projects and be able to benefit from the suite of potential minerals at Coates which are currently in high and growing demand and the future potential from the Nowthanna Hill Project.”

Mining Green Metals lodged an IPO prospectus on 13 March 2023, but Australian Vanadium now says the planned listing will no longer go ahead. 

The company did not specify any reason for the expired option deal, but it says it will continue to consider all options for both projects. 

The Coates Ni-Cu-PGE Project covers similar mafic-ultramafic rock sequences to those that host the Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN) Ni-Cu-PGE Julimar Project. 

Meanwhile, the Nowthanna Hill Uranium Project has a granted mining licence and Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE). 

Australian Vanadium is a vanadium-focused resources company. The company is advancing the development of its ‘world-class’ namesake project at Gabanintha, which is one of the most ‘advanced’ vanadium projects being developed globally. 

As of 30 June 2023, Australian Vanadium had $27.2 million cash at hand, according to its latest quarterly report published on 28 July.

Write to Aaliyah Rogan at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium
Author Image
Written By Aaliyah Rogan
Relocated from the East Coast in New Zealand to Queensland Australia, Aaliyah is a fervent journalist who has a passion for storytelling. When Aaliyah isn’t writing stories, she is either spending time with friends and family or down at the beach.

Australian Vanadium to supply vanadium flow battery to WA’s regional energy provider Horizon Power

Western Australia’s regional energy provider Horizon Power has entered into a contract with Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) subsidiary VSUN Energy to buy its first vanadium flow battery (VFB) for a long duration storage pilot in regional Western Australia.

Australian Vanadium reports through its 100% owned subsidiary VSUN Energy, the company will provide a 220kWh battery, which can deliver up to 78kW of power. It will be sourced from global VFB manufacturer Invinity Energy Systems (AIM:IES).

The purchase, commission, and installation of a VFB in Kununurra could assist Horizon Power to accelerate the decarbonisation of its energy network, which covers 2.3 million square kilometres. The VFB will be used for Horizon Power’s long duration energy storage pilot which aims to increase understanding of how this technology can provide long periods of 100% renewable energy supply in regional and remote energy systems across Western Australia.

Australian Vanadium reports the contract between Horizon Power and VSUN Energy allows for termination if completion is not achieved by 28 March 2024, subject to extension of time by mutual agreement between the parties.

Site planning and development work will now begin, with the Invinity Energy Systems’ VFB to be delivered and installed early next year.

Commenting on the agreement, AVL Chief Executive Officer Graham Arvidson says: “This is the first contracted VFB project for an Australian energy utility. VSUN Energy has been actively pursuing opportunities for VFB deployments and is seeing an increased interest from all energy sectors for this effective energy  storage technology which uses vanadium at its core. Horizon Power has chosen to be one of the early movers in Australia in support of a technology game changer for the many microgrids in the country.

 “This is the first contracted VFB project for an Australian energy utility”

Horizon Power’s support of the VFB technology will also assist AVL and VSUN Energy’s  planned vertical integration ‘pit to battery’ strategy. Future VFB projects in Australia will not only be  deployed locally, but have significant local content, including AVL’s vanadium electrolyte from its  plant which is currently under construction in Wangara, Western Australia.”

Horizon Power’s CEO Stephanie Unwin says that the pilot would support the organisation’s focus on solving the important technical problem of long duration storage and performance in harsh conditions, providing a pathway to reaching its decarbonisation goals.

Unwin notes that long duration energy storage provides backup power during times of peak demand or when the power supply is interrupted, storing high volumes of excess energy when demand is low and the ability to shift energy storage into the night.

“It can also minimise the need for costly fossil fuel  generation and grid infrastructure upgrades.”

The VFB is specifically designed to deliver large amounts of energy over a long period of time and is temperature resilient – which is critical for our unique regional and remote networks.

Invinity Energy Systems Chief Commercial Officer Matt Harper adds: “Due to their  durability, safety and reliability, vanadium flow batteries have a vital role to play in reducing the use  of fossil fuels in power generation, particularly in remote communities.”

VSUN Energy was established in 2016 and is Australian Vanadium’s vertical integration strategy, which incorporates processing vanadium to high purity, manufacturing vanadium electrolyte, and developing projects based on renewable energy generation and VFB energy storage.

Australian Vanadium is a resource company seeking to offer investors a unique exposure to  all aspects of the vanadium value chain – from resource through to steel and energy storage  opportunities. The company is advancing the development of its Australian Vanadium Project at  Gabanintha. The project is one of the most advanced vanadium projects being developed globally, with 239Mt at 0.73% vanadium pentoxide (V2O5), containing a ‘high-grade’ zone  of 95.6Mt at 1.07% V2O5 and an ore reserve of 30.9Mt at 1.09% V2O5 comprised of a proved reserve of 5Mt at 1.11% V2O5 and a probable reserve of 20.4Mt at 1.07% V2O5.

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium Ltd
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.

Technology Metals Australia welcomes new Non-Executive Director to board

Vanadium developer Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) has appointed Jo Gaines as a new Non-Executive Director, effective immediately.

The company says Gaines is an experienced leader and strategic policy director, having previously worked at a ‘high level’ of government as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Premier of Western Australia.

Speaking to Mining.com.au, Technology Metals Australia Managing Director Ian Prentice says Gaines is a valuable addition to the company’s board, noting her ‘extensive’ experience in stakeholder engagement and her ‘robust’ understanding of navigating complex regulations and policies.

“Given the increased focus in Australia on domestic renewable energy transition and on supplying the international demand for Australia’s critical minerals, as evidenced in the US’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Defense Production Act and the EU’s Raw Materials Act, Jo will be instrumental in elevating TMT’s contribution to the global drive in decarbonisation through our high-purity vanadium product and its application in long-duration energy storage systems.”

The company says in her role as Chief of Staff to the WA Premier, Gaines was a leader in ‘significant’ policy development affecting the economic and social fabric of Western Australia and was ‘influential’ in intergovernmental negotiations. 

Technology Metals says she was a leader in the WA Recovery Plan following the COVID-19 pandemic, working across state government agencies and the private sector to leverage opportunities to kick-start Western Australia’s economy.

Additionally, Gaines brings ‘extensive’ experience in stakeholder engagement, including across all levels of government and within the private sector, to drive reforms in a diverse range of fields including training and job creation, contracting and procurement, climate change, child protection, and health.

The MD tells this news service Gaines will provide constructive input into many aspects of the development of the Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) in Western Australia.

This includes corporate governance, workplace culture, health and safety best practices, and building relationships with government bodies at both a state and federal level, along with initiatives to drive local employment and contracting opportunities in Meekatharra.

These are all important aspects of the project that will allow us to implement ESG principles at the highest levels”

“These are all important aspects of the project that will allow us to implement ESG principles at the highest levels.”

Also commenting on the appointment, Technology Metals Australia Chairman Michael Fry says the company is pleased Gaines will be joining the board of TMT. 

“She brings tremendous experience and expertise in government relations and creating and maintaining stakeholder partnerships, which will be of great value as the board supports the TMT team in its delivery of the MTMP.

Her focus on governance and workplace best practice aligns with, and further strengthens, the board and company’s values and culture as we continue to grow the project team.”

Gaines says she is ‘excited’ to have the opportunity to join the board of Technology Metals Australia and contribute to the delivery of the Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) to deliver ‘high-grade’ vanadium.

“TMT, with its added focus on downstream processing, can make a significant contribution to renewable energy generation and battery storage, and I look forward to working with the board and management team to continue to progress the project for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

Technology Metals Australia reports Gaines holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Western Australia, a Post Graduate Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety from Curtin University, and is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Gaines is also Chair of the Government Employee Superannuation Board (GESB), a Director of Development WA, and a Non-Executive Director of Chalice Mining (ASX:CHN).

As for the progress of the MTMP, Prentice tells Mining.com.au it’s progressing well, with the project team working closely with GR Engineering (ASX:GNG), Iron Mine Contracting, and Danish company FLSmidth on construction readiness, along with early works planning and scheduling.

“We are continuing to progress permitting and approvals and advancing negotiations with our traditional owners. The Independent Technical Engineer (ITE) review is well underway, with their findings and report informing funding discussions with a range of prospective financiers.

An updated proven and probable Ore Reserve Estimate and a Bankable Financial Model will be completed and released as part of this process. Product marketing and customer engagement are also progressing with end users from both the steel and battery sectors.”

Technology Metals Australia is an Australian vanadium developer that is focused on developing its flagship Murchison Technology Metals Project near Meekatharra in the mid-west region of Western Australia. The company considers the MTMP to be among the ‘highest-grade’ vanadium projects in the world, with planned production at 6% of the current global vanadium demand.

Together with its subsidiary vLYTE, Technology Metals Australia aims to be a leader in the Australian and international vanadium industry by playing a ‘crucial’ role in meeting a growing demand for vanadium to help the world decarbonise.

Write to Harry Mulholland at Mining.com.au

Images: Technology Metals Australia Ltd/Jo Gaines
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.

Australian Vanadium executes $49 million grant agreement to fund namesake project in WA

ASX-listed resources company Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL) has executed a $49 million grant agreement with the Australian government to support the development of the Australian Vanadium Project in Western Australia.

The company reports the grant is part of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative – Manufacturing Collaboration Stream from the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources.

This grant will assist Australian Vanadium, in collaboration with industry partners, to create a vanadium battery industry in Australia by funding eligible activities to construct and commission a concentrator and a ‘high-purity’ vanadium processing facility capable of using green hydrogen as part of the extraction process.

Speaking to Mining.com.au, Australian Vanadium Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Graham Arvidson says the grant agreement is the wind in the company’s sails to move forward with the project. He says it’s a great vote of confidence from the Federal Government for the company and its collaboration partners to grow the vanadium industry together.

“Ultimately, it’s a ratification of all the good work that the team here at Australian Vanadium has done to develop the project to this point and a vote of confidence that we have the team and the asset to move forward with our collaboration partners to make a big impact here in Western Australia, and Australia generally.

We’re progressing well. We’re really focused on all the activities that we need to achieve Final Investment Decision (FID), so we continue to work laser-focused on offtake opportunities for the vanadium and our iron-titanium co-products, and we’re also working through the debt and equity financing side and all the things required to achieve those 2 outcomes with FID.

“We continue to work laser-focused on offtake opportunities for the vanadium and our iron-titanium co-products”

And then last but not least, we continue to make very good inroads on all of our approvals and stakeholder engagements to make the project shovel-ready in the near term.

We’ve got a great team, and we’re all really putting our shoulder to it and working hard on all those initiatives and feeling very confident that the economic and political situation will really support what we want to do and bring the benefits of our project through FID to the region and Australia.”

Additionally, the grant encompasses support for all stages of the vanadium production value chain, from mining and concentrating to vanadium processing for use in electrolyte production, which the company says is a ‘key’ enabler for the Australian vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) industry.

As part of the activities under the agreement, Australian Vanadium will also collaborate with Bryah Resources (ASX:BYH) to explore options to extract cobalt, nickel, copper, and gold economically from the project.

Meanwhile, broader activities needed to realise the overall project, including developing the mine and supporting infrastructure, will be funded from other sources.

Australian Vanadium reports the grant will be paid progressively over the term of the agreement, subject to milestone compliance by the company with its obligations under the agreement.

An initial payment of $9.8 million is scheduled to be received by the company in June 2023, followed by 3 further payments, with the final payment slated for August 2025.

Arvidson tells this news service that local vanadium production is a ‘critical’ piece of the puzzle to decarbonise and move towards Australia’s 2050 net-zero targets.

“Now, really, the scale of this stationary storage piece justifies not only vanadium redox flow batteries but, ideally, many other things might be pumped into hydro — to some extent, lithium-ion, which will inevitably get mostly syphoned into things that move electric vehicles, so we need technologies like this 20-year-old proven vanadium redox flow technology to fill that void of gigawatt-hour scale grid stabilisation mechanisms.

There aren’t pumped hydro dams everywhere in Australia, and the most commercial and, honestly, very cost-competitive and technically very sound and superior option for grid operators is vanadium redox flow battery technology.

And really, in terms of supply chain growth, the key input there is going to be new mines producing high-quality, high-purity vanadium electrolyte. So how critical is it? 

I think it’s really critical if we are serious about achieving our 2050 targets, and if we’re serious about continuing to increase penetration of solar and wind across Australia”

I think it’s really critical if we are serious about achieving our 2050 targets, and if we’re serious about continuing to increase penetration of solar and wind across Australia, and not just within Australia; you’ll see VRFBs being taken up at very large scale in China, the US, and Europe as we move forward.”

Arvidson says the company will be taking as much time as it needs to ensure it gets the best possible offtake arrangement in the lead-up to a FID.

Australian Vanadium is an ASX-listed resources company focused on advancing the development of the Australian Vanadium Project at Gabanintha and Tenindewa in Western Australia. The company says the project is one of the most advanced vanadium projects being developed globally, with 239 million tonnes @ 0.73% V2O5, including a ‘high-grade’ zone of 95.6 million tonnes @ 1.07% V2O5.

Write to Harry Mulholland at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian Vanadium 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.

Viking Mines prepares to sound the horn on drilling at Canegrass Battery Metals Project in WA

Australian vanadium explorer Viking Mines (ASX:VKA) is advancing towards starting a drilling program at the Canegrass Battery Metals Project in Western Australia.

The company reports it will complete a geophysical processing and magnetic inversion modelling to target magnetite horizons, update the geology model with drilling data and ground magnetics geophysical survey information, along with completing an exploration target assessment, and finalist drillhole planning before drilling at the project.

Viking says it has engaged the services of TopDrill to undertake the major drilling program which will comprise about 40 holes for 5,500m. This drilling will begin at the end of May 2023, and is expected to take about a month to complete.

The company says final drill program planning is in progress, noting it will be targeted over the more than 8km strike length of outcropping vanadiferous titanomagnetite (VTM) mineralisation observed throughout the project across 5 specific drill areas.

Additionally, Viking says the main technical objectives of the drill program include improving the mineral resource confidence, growing the mineral resource, discovering new mineral resources, assessing the potential of the VTM mineralisation, and providing samples for metallurgical testwork.

Commenting on the upcoming drilling program, Viking Mines Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director Julian Woodcock says: “I am pleased that Viking has been able to secure the services of TopDrill to undertake our major 5,500m drilling program at Canegrass which is the first substantial program to be completed at the project in more than a decade.

“Viking are rapidly advancing the project, and the results from this drilling program have the potential to deliver significant value…”

Once drilling is completed, we will be in a position to move forward with a comprehensive metallurgical testwork program, which is the next critical step required to unlock the massive inherent value of this project which already boasts more than 1.1 billion pounds of V2O5.

Viking are rapidly advancing the project, and the results from this drilling program have the potential to deliver significant value for Viking’s shareholders with the discovery of additional high-grade vanadium mineralisation.”

The company says natural extensions to the mineral resource will be drill tested in shallower positions as evidenced from outcrop mapping where no previous drilling has been completed with a goal to increase the tonnes and improve the grade.

Drill testing at the Kinks South target will expand off the 17m @ 0.98% V2O5 drilled in March 2023. The company says the addition of more holes will provide sufficient data to allow an estimate of a new mineral resource at this target.

Viking says initial drilling between the existing mineral resource along the strike length of the outcropping VTM mineralisation will provide data on a full strike prospectivity of the mineralised horizon and potentially provide targets for further follow-up in the future.

The company also notes drilling will generate samples which will initially be analysed to determine the vanadium potential of the system. Following recently obtained results, Viking notes specific samples will be selected for more detailed metallurgical testwork to determine the best approach to extract the inherent value from the mineralisation.

Following the completion of drilling, Viking reports samples will be delivered to the lab with initial results expected within a month of the completion of drilling.

Viking Mines is an ASX-listed vanadium explorer focused on developing the Canegrass Battery Minerals Project in the Murchison region of Western Australia. The project is located 630km northeast of Perth and hosts an inferred resource of 79 million tonnes @ 0.64% V2O5, 29.7% Fe, and 6% TiO2.

Along with Canegrass, the company also holds the First Hit Project in the Eastern Goldfields of Western Australia, and the Akoase Gold Project in Ghana.

Images: Viking Mines 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.

Technology Metals Australia’s largest shareholder Resource Capital Fund invests further into Murchison vanadium strategy

Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) reports its largest shareholder Resource Capital Fund VII has made a further investment into the Murchison vanadium strategy by lodging a notice showing an initial substantial 5.35% interest in fellow vanadium developer Australian Vanadium (ASX:AVL).

Technology Metals considers this investment in Australian Vanadium, which holds an vanadium project adjacent to the company’s Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) in Western Australia, reconfirms its positive outlook on the vanadium sector. The company says it also represents the opportunity to create a ‘world-class’ vanadium operation centred in the Murchison region.

Resource Capital Fund VII has now invested $13.5 million in Technology Metals Australia, and $8 million in Australian Vanadium to secure a major interest across the adjoining MTMP and Australian Vanadium projects. Resource Capital Fund VII is now the largest shareholder of both companies based on public disclosures.

Resource Capital Fund VII also remains Technology Metals’ largest shareholder with 17.2%, which represents no change since initially investing in the company in September 2021.

Resource Capital Fund VII has now invested $13.5 million in Technology Metals Australia, and $8 million in Australian Vanadium to secure a major interest across the adjoining MTMP and Australian Vanadium projects

Technology Metals is maintaining a ‘clear’ focus on the development of the MTMP, and to deliver a secure and reliable supply of ‘high-purity’ vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) to support the global transition towards net zero.

Technology Metals Australia is a future-oriented ASX-listed company focused on developing its flagship Murchison Technology Metals Project located 50km southeast of Meekatharra in Western Australia. The company says the project is one of the ‘highest-grade’ vanadium projects in the world with planned production at 6% of the current global vanadium demand.

The MTMP has a global Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) of 153.7 million tonnes @ 0.8% V2O5 with the Integration Study incorporating ‘high-grade’ ore from the Yarrabudda satellite deposit into the central processing hub at Gabanintha. 

The completion of the study has facilitated the progression of the implementation phase of the MTMP, and the move towards development, construction, and operation of the project.

Vanadium is a specialty material used in the steel industry to increase the strength and reduce the weight of ‘high-carbon’ steel alloys used in structural steel, high-speed tools, titanium alloys, and aircrafts.

An emerging use for vanadium is in the energy storage sector with the expanding use of vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) designed to store and re-supply solutions for renewable energy in micro-grid to large-scale applications.

Images: Technology Metals Australia 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.

Technology Metals Australia: steeling itself to power the next globally significant vanadium project

This is the second in a 2-part feature series.

This article is a sponsored feature from Mining.com.au partner Technology Metals Australia Ltd. It is not financial advice. Talk to a registered financial expert before making investment decisions.

Advanced vanadium developer Technology Metals Australia (ASX:TMT) is progressing the development of the ‘globally significant’ Murchison Technology Metals Project (MTMP) in Western Australia.

As explained in the first part of this series, MTMP will produce high-purity vanadium pentoxide (V2O5) and a ‘high value’ ilmenite by-product. The company’s flagship project is shaping up to be one of global significance. Following a November upgrade, the MTMP measured and indicated Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) grew to 63.2 million tonnes at 0.9% V2O5 within the global MRE of 153.7Mt at 0.8% V2O5.

More importantly, the flagship project will produce 6% of the world’s vanadium when it comes online and is poised to be the first and only Australian vanadium project in production when it does.

The vanadium market is divided into the 2 broad market sectors – steel applications and long duration energy storage.

As Managing Director Ian Prentice explains in the first part of this series, MTMP is ideally placed as a developing supplier into a steel market increasingly using more vanadium due to its strengthening properties. But importantly as a primary vanadium producer it will also be delivering a ‘very high purity’ product, which will be perfect for the vanadium redox flow batteries (VRFB) market.

VRFBs are a rechargeable flow battery that uses vanadium in different oxidation states to store energy, using the unique ability of vanadium to exist in solution in 4 different oxidation states. VRFBs provide an efficient storage and re-supply solution for renewable energy – being able to time-shift large amounts of previously generated energy for later use – ideally suited to micro-grid to large-scale energy storage solutions (grid stabilisation).

Two divergent yet important global markets

Based on the company’s drill results, Prentice says Technology Metals is in a strong position to capitalise on these 2 divergent yet important global vanadium markets.

Initially, Technology Metals was leaning more towards focusing on the steel sector for targeting end users, however it is now a 50:50 split with the battery market.

So, what was the catalyst for the change in company strategy?

The MD says: “While high strength steel will always be a key market for vanadium for its application in construction, infrastructure, and aerospace sectors, the demand for reliable battery and energy storage systems for long duration (>4 hours) storage of the energy produced from renewable sources is growing very quickly, spurred on by government policies and incentives such as the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, and the UK’s Net Zero Innovation Portfolio. This environmental and policy-driven catalyst has demonstrated to us that the long duration energy storage sector is a market in which vanadium will become highly valued.

“…vanadium will have a role to play in the long duration energy storage and grid infrastructure system”

Whilst lithium’s appeal and demand will continue to satisfy application in mobile devices, equipment, vehicles and short term / emergency energy storage, vanadium will have a role to play in the long duration energy storage and grid infrastructure system. This can be seen in the activities of the world’s biggest vanadium producers: Pangang and Hebei Iron & Steel Group (HISG) in China.

Pangang has partnered up with Dalian Rongke Energy Storage to build a vanadium electrolyte plant that is expected to supply 10,000T and 20,000T of V205 in 2023 and 2024 respectively. HISG has completed construction of a 1,000m3 per annum vanadium electrolyte plant and plans to complete construction of a 50,000m3 per annual electrolyte production facility before 2025. The movement towards the battery sector is therefore undeniable.”

The MD adds that the energy crisis in Europe brought about by the war in Ukraine has amplified the focus on more effectively harnessing renewable energy generation capacity. It has also highlighted the need for long duration storage to make renewable energy to be more efficient (manage intermittency) and to have a reduced reliance on the thermal energy “grid” – for example having solar energy generated during the day available for use all night (when the sun’s not shining).

Prentice notes that this movement towards battery and energy storage is ‘part and parcel’ of the renewable energy transition, and the technologies are continuously being tweaked and tested, for instance, in the composition of the vanadium electrolyte for optimum performance.

Therefore, there are a lot of moving parts as research and development is being conducted all over the world by different players to improve the efficiency (and therefore reduce costs) of the batteries.

“In that respect, compared to the traditional steel sector for which vanadium has been a proven element in the steelmaking process, the battery sector requires a lot more monitoring and analysis to fully understand our product specification requirements. This is also a developing sector of the battery industry so it is important that Technology Metals engages with the more established groups to ensure confidence from financiers and other stakeholders.”

Technology Metals has established a subsidiary company vLYTE to support its energy storage sector activities and appointed a Business Development Manager for Energy Storage who keeps abreast on the developments within the battery sector and transmits the data back to the team. The company is also a key sponsor in the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) on the Development of Electrolyte project, which again helps the company understand the vanadium pentoxide specifications we need to target to facilitate downstream processing into electrolyte.

However, the steel market is still lucrative and Technology Metals has already received firm interest from major end users in the sector.

Prentice explains: “In the steel industry the geopolitical tensions with both China and Russia – the world’s two largest vanadium producers – provides a unique opportunity for the MTMP to carve out a very strong market position – high quality product, high ESG credentials coming from a stable global jurisdiction.”

That position is looking particularly strong given global Indian steel manufacturing giant Tata Steel has expressed interest in offtake and technical collaboration on downstream vanadium products with the company.

The MD notes: “Tata Steel is one of the largest steelmakers in the world and having them come on board with a Memorandum of Understanding with us shows their motivation for supply chain security when it comes to vanadium as a steel strengthening element as well as the quality of the MTMP.

“Tata Steel is one of the largest steelmakers in the world and having them come on board with a Memorandum of Understanding with us shows their motivation for supply chain security”

The incredible forecast growth in steel production for India in the next decade can be seen as one of those motivating factors – India’s production is set to grow to ~300Mt by 2030 from ~118Mt in 2021. To add strength to steel, The intensity of use rate for vanadium per tonne of steel in India is about 0.039. So, with this increase in steel production, India’s use of vanadium will go from 4,675 tonnes per annum (equivalent to ~8,350 V2O5) to around 11,900 tonnes of vanadium (equivalent to 21,200 tonnes of V2O5).

Tata Steel can see the value of the MTMP in both the quality of the vanadium to be produced as well as the diversification of its supply chain, and that is great validation of the project and the company.”

Prentice says there are a range of opportunities being discussed with Tata Steel including offtake, collaboration, and investment. Any or all of these would be ‘fantastic’ outcomes for Technology Metals and the MTMP.

“Tata also provides a bridge into the broader Indian market – both into other steel market participants as well as the rapidly growing long duration energy storage sector – with India set to become one of the largest renewable energy generators in the world by the end of the decade and a strong awareness of the competitive advantages of VRFBs.

It is also very important to discuss this agreement in the context of the recently executed – and enacted – Australia India Economic Cooperation and Trade Agreement (AI ECTA) – which is building stronger trade ties between Australia and India across the Indian ocean.”

Adding fuel to that strong position is the interest Technology Metals has received from LE System – one of Japan’s leading research and development companies for vanadium redox flow batteries and is on track to become a leading supplier of electrolytes to VRFB manufacturers.

LE System is investigating vanadium electrolyte production in Australia and is interested in offtake of vanadium into Japan.

Prentice adds: “The Japanese, Koreans, and East Asian markets are at the forefront of electrolyte and energy storage innovation. LE System has been investigating vanadium electrolyte since 2011 and commissioned its commercial scale vanadium electrolyte plant in 2021 that is able to produce ~5,000m3 of vanadium electrolyte per annum, which is equivalent to ~100MWh energy storage capacity.

LE System has come to visit us here in Perth and to our MTMP site, and we have been to Japan to visit them at their lab and factory. They have good relationships into the Japanese, Korean and Chinese VRFB industries as well as with Japanese trading houses and government agencies.  Securing a stable long-term supply of vanadium into Japan would be very important for LES to continue the growth of its business and for the accelerated roll out of VRFBs into the region.”

At present, Technology Metals is working with LE System to support the development of the company’s vanadium electrolyte production capacity in Australia – through Technology Metals’ wholly owned subsidiary vLYTE – which will enable the accelerated roll out of VRFBs into the Australian market, facilitating the entry into this market of the major global VRFB manufacturers.

Financing a future-facing project

With such interest, it seems no wonder that MTMP is considered a project of national and global significance.

As a junior exploration company, with such a flagship asset in its portfolio, it does not appear all that ambitious to raise the expected $600 million-plus in project capex. The MD explains that with an estimated average annual EBITDA of $182 million over a 25-year mine life, MTMP has an extremely high-value proposition.

“The MTMP is a long-life, high revenue generating critical minerals project. Similar to the majority of critical / battery mineral projects, it requires a significant capital investment.  Support of sovereign funding agencies (EKF, NAIF, CMO, EFA, etcetera) is important to ensure the development of these long-life assets to supply the world’s critical minerals vital to the decarbonisation journey.” 

Prentice adds that the MTMP is different to the typical gold or base metals projects that the Australian market is accustomed to, with generally lower capex but typically relatively short (<10 years) initial mine lives. This requires a different mindset when assessing the value proposition for what will be a long-life asset.

The MD notes: “The value proposition that sets the MTMP apart is the forecast ilmenite production and elevated vanadium production in the early years of the operation – while mining ore from Yarrabubba – which translates in to elevated revenue (cash flow available for debt service) in the period that funding groups are looking to be repaid.”

It seems financing is unlikely to be an issue for Technology Metals.

Earlier in January, the company received a letter of interest (LoI) from EKF, Denmark’s Export Credit Agency, regarding potential financing support for MTMP.

The EKF LoI contemplates financing support of about $150 million subject to, among others, sufficient Danish economic interest in the MTMP, approvals, satisfactory documentation, and customary due diligence. As the Danish ECA, financing support from EKF is backed by the Danish state and as such can be considered to carry a AAA rating.

EKF supports Danish exporters, such as Technology Metals’ key equipment supplier FLSmidth, in their exports globally, having had extensive and positive experience with FLSmidth on projects worldwide for more than 90 years. Technology Metals is progressing discussions with FLSmidth regarding the supply of various key equipment items, including the roasting kiln section, required for the development of the MTMP.

Prentice says EKF’s LoI is an ‘exciting and significant milestone’ alongside its partnership with FLSmidth, which places Technology Metals in a strong position to progress the development of the MTMP.

FLSmidth is a Danish engineering company, with almost 10,100 employees worldwide, and is a major supplier of production facilities, equipment and service solutions to the mining and cement industries. FLSmidth has partnered and collaborated with Technology Metals on this project since early 2018, starting with the salt roast leach testwork, through to Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) for the pyro processing technology and major equipment selection reviews for the concentrator and leach circuit.

Meanwhile, the EKF LoI follows a successful drilling campaign for the company, which has helped to define the MTMP’s value proposition.

The MD says the integration of Yarrabubba into the MTMP, completed in August 2022, is expected to provide significant benefits for the project economics, given the enhanced ore reserve position and the additional ilmenite by-product. This is expected to be viewed very favourably by prospective project financiers and key stakeholders.

“The Yarrabubba ore also contains an ilmenite by-product, delivering a material additional revenue stream projected to be during the first 9 years of the operation”

“The ore at the Yarrabubba satellite deposit has higher vanadium in concentrate grades (1.61% V205) with testwork confirming that it delivers very high recoveries through the proven MTMP processing technology – which is forecast to deliver higher production rates in the early years of the operation based on the MTMP design throughput rate.

Furthermore, the Yarrabubba ore also contains an ilmenite (Ti02) by-product, delivering a material additional revenue stream projected to be during the first 9 years of the operation.

The features of the ore at both Gabanintha and Yarrabubba are fundamental to the economic viability of the MTMP – the ability to achieve high recoveries of vanadium and ilmenite using traditional mining and processing methods means the operations at MTMP will be low-cost, efficient, and sustainable.”

A foundational approach to ESG

As sustainability goes, the focus for Technology Metals extends well beyond just MTMP.

The company is well into what it calls the Implementation Phase. The team has undertaken commercial competitive tender for the MTMP processing plant and all non-process infrastructure at the end of 2022 which has provided commercial pricing to support the completion of the MTMP bankable financial model.

Progression of the environmental approvals process is ongoing, with the company maintaining its collaborative approach with the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) as it prepares a further update to the Environmental Review Document (ERD), consistent with the company’s environmental, social and governance (ESG) philosophy.

“Our ESG program is based on our company mission, which is to develop and operate a world-class critical minerals project that makes a positive difference to the local community, minimises impacts to the environment, and contributes to global decarbonisation”

The company’s ESG approach is an important factor in engagement with government funding agencies, commercial banks, strategic investors, and institutional financiers. Prentice says Technology Metals has commenced designing a holistic ESG action plan to guide the development and long-term operation of the MTMP, which will ensure the sustained success of the Project and maintain support from its stakeholders.

This engagement includes working with the Traditional Owners on heritage and environmental matters and working out ways in which MTMP can provide long-term benefits to the community through employment, contracting and training opportunities.

The MD adds: “Our ESG program is based on our company mission, which is to develop and operate a world-class critical minerals project that makes a positive difference to the local community, minimises impacts to the environment, and contributes to global decarbonisation. To this end, our approach to the community and the Traditional Owners is sensitive and collaborative, making sure that we take their views into consideration and also there is an open channel for two-way dialogue.

In terms of our environmental approach, we recognise environmental values and seek to minimise our footprint as practicable and are continuing to develop strategies and incorporate designs that seek to protect water resources and improve energy efficiency. Our governance structure has been firmly established to ensure that accountabilities are set and everyone in the organisation behaves and conducts themselves with integrity and respect for each other.

Culture is the foundational block in maintaining our ESG values, and we seek to recruit and retain individuals who are aligned to our culture as we move the project to construction and ultimately production.”

Write to Adam Orlando at Mining.com.au

Images: Technology Metals Australia Ltd
Author Image
Written By Adam Orlando
Mining.com.au Managing Editor Adam Orlando has more than 20 years’ experience in the media having held senior roles at various publications, including as Asia-Pacific Sector Head (Mining) at global newswire Acuris (formerly Mergermarket). Adam has worked in newsrooms around the world including Hong Kong, Singapore, London, and Sydney.