Critical minerals are essential for high tech applications such as battery storage and electric vehicles, a point that has been recognised by the Australian government.

Following on the recent unveiling of its Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing road map, the government has now awarded Major Project Status to Core Lithium’s (ASX:CXO) Finniss lithium project and TNG Limited’s (ASX:TNG) Mount Peake vanadium, titanium and iron mine and processing facility.

Major Project Status recognises the importance of the development, paving the way for the critical minerals project to receive extra support from the Major Projects Facilitation Agency and a single entry point for Government approvals.

“Lithium is a valuable export which will only become more important in the future, thanks to its use in a range of everyday items from electric car batteries to smart phones, pace makers and digital cameras,” Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews noted.

“Products using vanadium, titanium and iron are also in great demand and these two projects will see our nation capturing more value from these resources, which will create jobs in the Northern Territory and economic opportunities for all of Australia.”

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the critical minerals projects would be able to supply markets in Asia and Europe with critical minerals while increasing downstream processing locally.

The latter will allow Australia to capture more of the supply chain’s value.

Critical minerals projects

The first critical minerals project is Core’s Finniss lithium project, which is located just 25km from Darwin, providing it with easy access to markets in Asia.

The project already has government approvals, a funding offer in place along with a binding offtake that could make it part of Tesla’s supply chain.

Finniss has a palatable capex of $85m thanks to the use of simple dense media separation with no floatation required.

It is expected to produce 175,000 tonnes of lithium spodumene carbonate (SC6) per annum to generate $160m in yearly revenue.

The company is targeting the completion of a definitive feasibility study in the second quarter of this year that will pave the way for a final investment decision in the quarter after that.

Construction could begin as early as the second half of 2021.

Meanwhile, TNG’s Mount Peake will see a mine site established about 235km north of Alice Springs and a facility set up in Darwin to produce and process vanadium, titanium and iron.

It has forecast annual production of 100,000t of titanium pigment, 6,000t of vanadium pentoxide and 500,000t of iron oxide.

The project’s front-end engineering and design study is currently being finalised for delivery while development of the critical minerals project execution plan is underway.