• Graphite and gallium have been added to the NT’s list of estimated resources projects
  • The NT now has 17 types of critical minerals projects with a resource base within its borders
  • NT Government remains supportive of explorers with $9.5m worth of funding annually for projects

    The NT now has 17 globally recognised critical minerals deposits on its list of resources, up from 15 last year with the additions of graphite and gallium following recent discoveries by mining juniors that are set to further benefit from government funding programs.

    Both critical minerals are in high demand, as countries around the world scramble to secure ex-China supplies after the Middle Kingdom – which has a monopoly on the graphite, gallium (and germanium) supply chains – introduced export controls of the minerals last year, calling it a “national security” measure.


    Opportunities for both the NT and explorers

    The NT Government also wants to capitalise with now 17 of the world’s critical minerals already estimated and high potential for a further 12.

    The Territory currently has six operating mines for critical minerals, 10 critical minerals projects at various stages of regulatory approvals or project financing and a pipeline of earlier-stage projects with already defined mineral resources.

    Mining minister Mark Monaghan says there’s a substantial economic and strategic opportunity for the Territory to develop secure supply chains to support the clean energy transformation, with already over 4,400 Territorians working within its minerals sector which turned over $4.86bn last year.

    “We want more investment in our critical minerals sector and the $9.5m Resourcing the Territory program provides exploration grants and free-of-charge geoscience data to support and de-risk exploration investment,” Monaghan says.

    It recently offered another $3m in grants to explorers in Round 17 of its Geophysics and Drilling Collaborations program as part of it.

    The exploration grants apply to both greenfields and brownfields projects whereby the NT Government will co-fund up to 50% of drilling costs, surveys and innovative exploration targeting.


    asx juniors stocks (aru)
    NT critical minerals projects map. Source: NT Government.


    Who’s out there to benefit from adding graphite and gallium to the list?

    Well, funding so far has been paying dividends already. Last year the Territory’s first gallium resource was announced at Transition Minerals’ Barkly project where an inferred 200Mt mainly REE-vanadium resource also has 6,300t of contained gallium on the books.

    Another funding recipient, Kingsland Minerals (ASX:KNG), now has a significant graphite discovery at the Leliyn project near Pine Creek, recently releasing a mineral resource estimate (MRE).

    It took less than 12 months for the explorer to delineate Leliyn which is now Australia’s largest inferred contained graphite (TGC) deposit and also one of the largest in the world with 194.6Mt @ 7.3% for 14.2Mt.

    The MRE is based on just 4km of the identified 20km-long outcropping graphite schist, leaving Kingsland well-placed to develop Leliyn into a globally significant project.

    Another kicker is that while proving up the MRE, Kingsland discovered a portion of the drill intercepts also contained significant levels of gallium, which currently fetches >$700/kg and is vital for producing semiconductor chips.

    “Gallium is a critical element and may provide a potentially valuable by-product from the development of Leliyn,” Kingsland MD Richard Maddocks says.

    “Our prime focus remains graphite, but we will include gallium the metallurgical testwork to begin to assess the viability of extracting it from the graphitic schist.”

    That testwork is currently underway and there’s a planned infill drilling program planned for next quarter.


    Other critical minerals benefactors in the NT

    Kingsland could well end up following in the footsteps of fellow NT explorer Arafura Rare Earths (ASX:ARU) which recently received $840m in federal loan funding to develop its Nolans REE-phosphorous mine – half of its estimated $1.68bn price tag.

    Nolans is expected to produce ~4,400tpa of the highly valuable magnet REEs neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), 474tpa of heavy rare earth oxides and 144,393tpa of phosphoric acid for a minimum of 38 years and accounts for 5% of the world’s current NdPr demand.

    One critical minerals explorer that may benefit from Arafura’s funding is Bubalus Resources (ASX:BUS), which plans to start drilling at its Nolans East project just 15km from Nolans.

    Surface samples have turned up high-value NdPr averages of 22% in the total rare earth oxide content Bubalus says drilling will be focused on seven identified large-scale REE anomalies once it refines the targets.



    While Arafura Rare Earths and Kingsland Minerals and Bubalus Resources are Stockhead advertisers, they did not sponsor this article.
    This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.