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ANSTO’s $13.9 million to advance critical minerals processing

Manufacturing News

Processing of rare earth elements will be a key area of focus for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s Minerals unit following a $13.9 million funding allocation under the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub.

The Minister for Resources and Minister Madeleine King announced the funding for 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 by science agencies ANSTO, CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia.

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

Jenkinson said: “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.

“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.”

The 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
  • And establish a dedicated testing facility at ANSTO.

Other projects announced are 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 project to explore the technical recovery of gallium from bauxite refining process liquors

Jenkinson said: “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.”

The R&D Hub is facilitating seven funded research projects, with ANSTO also leading a High Purity Quartz (HPQ) project developing sovereign processing capabilities for HPQ production.

Further reading:
Browse @AuManufacturing’s coverage of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation here.

Picture: ANSTO

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