Seizing the Lead: Australia’s Critical Minerals Opportunity

A recent article by iQ Industry Queensland features Core Resources and Chair, Jon Loraine, discussing the opportunities lying ahead for Australia in the critical minerals landscape.

Jon highlighted the untapped potential for Australia to shift from exporting raw materials to dominating the global market for high-value processed minerals. This transition could significantly enhance the nation’s economic landscape, leveraging our rich resources and technical prowess. 

With the Queensland Government’s support through initiatives like demonstration plants and the Townsville common user facility, there’s a clear path forward for Australia to capitalise on this golden opportunity.

Read the full article here:

Critical minerals present a lead to be taken

The opportunity for Australia to stamp its mark as a world leader in complex minerals processing has been outlined by one of the country’s most sophisticated metallurgical teams.

Core Resources was spun out of a Mount Isa Mines research facility which was originally established in Albion 40 years ago.

The company now has a network of laboratories, tech development, warehousing and administration in the inner Brisbane suburb and provides chemical engineering and other processing solutions internationally.

Queensland has been a leader in copper smelting and refining and hosts the Sun Metals zinc refinery at Townsville, and the Yarwun and QAL alumina refineries in Gladstone, among others.    

There were new opportunities with the critical minerals era dawning, Core Resources director Jon Loraine said. 

“The most advanced one is clearly lithium … at the start of the process with lithium, you dig up spodumene, which is a lithium containing ore. You make a concentrate and mainly Australia just exports that concentrate,” he said.

“We’ve got something like 40 per cent of the world’s spodumene market. We’ve got something like 5 percent of the world’s lithium carbonate market and the next level up is to make battery precursor chemicals. 

“They’re worth 50 times what spodumene concentrates are worth, and we’ve got zero per cent of the world market. 

“So, we’re still very much looking at making the lowest possible saleable product and missing out on all the value adding. And that’s really the opportunity for Australia. 

“There’s a lot of value to be got by actually getting really good at making the highly refined metals and minerals that the energy revolution needs.” 

Value adding

Some of that value adding was being promoted in the new generation of minerals development, Mr Loraine said.

“We do have substantial vanadium resources in North Queensland and you have half a dozen very energetic, smaller companies addressing those projects and making good progress. 

“We’ve had the honour of working with a few of them, so there’s certainly an opportunity there. 

“You still have quite a lot of complexity in treating these sorts of rare earths and critical minerals, much more than just making gold or making copper concentrates.” 

The Queensland Government partnership had helped focus the industry into value adding, Mr Loraine said.

“The Queensland Government has committed to put funding into building demonstration plants to help these companies come along,” he said. 

“There is the common user facility that’s been designed in Townsville and the Resource Centre of Excellence in Mackay.

“They’re both facilities that have received some government support into cracking the processing complexities. 

“It’s a central part of strategy for the Queensland Government to affect a transition in the profile of the mining industry, which has been traditionally very heavily based on the North West Minerals Province and base metals, on coal and in bauxite and alumina.”

Reprinted courtesy of iQ Industry of Queensland 

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