ANSTO welcomes $13.9m critical minerals funding

By : M. Amru | Tuesday, January 16 2024 - 21:21 IWST

ANSTO welcomes $13.9m critical minerals funding
ANSTO welcomes $13.9m critical minerals funding - Darwin - Rare earth elements will be a key area of focus for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s Minerals unit as it welcomes a $13.9 million funding allocation under the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub.

In an announcement shared earlier this week by Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia, the Hon. Madeleine King MP, ANSTO’s funding will go towards a research project to accelerate the discovery, extraction, and processing of rare earth elements from clay hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth deposits.

The funding forms part of a $22 million package to support three key research projects under the R&D Hub for its participating Australian Government science agencies; ANSTO, CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia.

ANSTO CEO, Shaun Jenkinson said ANSTO Mineral’s extensive experience working with rare earth elements will help to unlock the potential for these types of lower-grade Australian deposits.

“Australia already has a rich supply of high-grade rare earths deposits and strong expertise in processing techniques to extract the most out of our resources, that puts us in a strong position globally,” Mr Jenkinson said.

“This funding will allow us to gain an even greater understanding of the mineralogy and processing routes needed to tap into clay-hosted and ionic adsorption deposits, which have higher ratios of sought after magnet metals.”

Together with Geoscience Australia and CSIRO, this two-year project will enable ANSTO to:

• assess Australia’s potential for clay-hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth element deposits,

• develop and test mineral processing options specific to these deposits,

• demonstrate how these deposits can be integrated into existing rare earth element separation processes to produce high purity rare earth elements,

• establish a dedicated testing facility at ANSTO, and

• enhance the environmental outcomes of critical minerals mining and processing.

ANSTO will also provide input to each of the separately funded projects led by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia as announced by the Minister. ANSTO will contribute to:

• CSIRO’s $5.2 million metallisation project, to develop a technical understanding of the conversion of tungsten mineral concentrates to high value-added chemical concentrates and tungsten oxides, and

• Geoscience Australia’s $2.7 million research project, to explore the technical recovery of gallium from bauxite refining process liquors, and determine how existing bauxite refineries will offer opportunities for Australia.

Mr Jenkinson said critical minerals and rare earths form a crucial component of key technologies such as personal electronic devices, transport, and telecommunications.

“Critical minerals touch on almost every aspect of our everyday lives, from smartphones, computers, and batteries, right through to fibre-optic cables we use in our homes and workplaces. But of equal importance, they’re also essential to producing green technologies such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels,” Mr Jenkinson said.

“Critical and strategic minerals such as rare earths, uranium, and lithium already form a large part of ANSTO’s Minerals business. The recent shift in focus towards diversifying and securing their supply chains is an exciting re-direction to unlocking Australia’s critical minerals resources and supporting our commitment to net zero.

“ANSTO is looking forward to continuing this invaluable work with our R&D Hub partners – Geoscience Australia, and CSIRO - and the Critical Minerals Office at the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.”

Established in October 2022, the R&D Hub brings together the expertise of Australia’s leading science agencies to work with industry, universities, and the research community to address technical challenges. The Hub is also driving collaborative research across the critical minerals value chain, needed to support clean energy and Australia’s net zero policy agenda in line with Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2023-2030.

The R&D Hub is currently facilitating seven funded research projects, with ANSTO also leading a High Purity Quartz (HPQ) project developing sovereign processing capabilities for HPQ production for Australian producers. For more information about the R&D Hub and its projects, visit the R&D Hub website.

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