High Voltage: WA opens pilot cathode plant, expects to bank $1 billion a year by 2030
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Our High Voltage column wraps all the news driving ASX stocks with exposure to lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel, rare earths, and vanadium.
Western Australia has hit a major battery milestone with the opening of its first cathode facility by the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC), where the speciality is not acronyms.
The first of its kind in Australia, the cathode precursor production pilot plant will establish the technology and capabilities for Australia to design and build cathode precursor manufacturing facilities on a commercial and industrial scale.
It’s kind of a big deal, because cathode precursors are precisely engineered materials, the highest cost component of a cell, and a crucial element of the battery value chain.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said Western Australia isn’t just famous for having all the minerals you need to make a battery, “we also have the capabilities to progress down the value chain and grow our battery manufacturing and downstream processing industries”.
The plant is expected to capitalise on Australia’s strong position in mining and its emerging battery metal refining industry.
Not to mention it could deliver $1 billion to the economy and support 4,800 jobs by 2030, FBICRC says.
“Australia has the potential to develop into a competitive player in the international batteries industry,” FBICRC CEO Shannon O’Rourke said.
“The pilot plant launch is a significant step in developing the on-shore capabilities and industry knowledge to create thousands of jobs and add billions of dollars to our economy.”
The global battery market is expected to grow 9-10 times by 2030 and 40-fold by 2050.
In a net-zero world, between now and 2050 over $23 trillion will be spent on batteries.
The FBICRC says Australia is well positioned to capture more of this value – given we are the only country with leading resources of all raw materials required to make high performance batteries including nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and lithium.
Over 18 months, the plant will run a series of test campaigns through four fully integrated and automated P-CAM production units, provided by BASF – the largest chemical producer in the world.
The four units will enable the plant to run different compositions and ratios of chemistries simultaneously, or to run the same chemistries under four different conditions, changing variables such as temperature, pH or stirring rate.
Produced P-CAM is then lithiated, calcined and electrochemically tested at the FBICRC funded Electrochemical Testing Facility at the Queensland University of Technology.
BHP (ASX:BHP) Nickel West has also provided equipment for the precursor facility, repurposed from their Nickel Sulphate pilot plant.
Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said the plant is a vital step towards developing a future growth industry in WA.
“The launch of this plant, made possible through the repurposing of equipment from our Nickel Sulphate Pilot Plant, will allow the FBICRC and the State Government to explore further options for a downstream battery materials manufacturing industry,” she said.
“This is another exciting step for BHP as a major supplier of nickel, a commodity highly sought after by car and battery manufactures across the globe.”
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After IPOing in January with $6m at $0.20, BRX’s share price has surged 271.43%, and it’s now trading over $0.50.
This makes it one of the best performing ASX IPOs for 2022.
Yesterday the company confirmed high-grade massive sulphide in its third hole from phase-one reverse circulation drilling at the Belara Mine in the Lachlan Fold Belt of New South Wales.
Hits included 7m at 2.2% zinc, 2.54% copper, 0.63% lead, 36.87g/t silver and 0.67g/t gold from 78m, including 3m at 4.72% zinc, 5.85% copper, 1.30% lead, 82.60g/t silver and 1.5g/t gold.
Importantly, BRX managing director Arvind Misra says the assays have higher grades for all metals than in the historic model.
“We are now fast-tracking work on our maiden resource, which we hope to announce in this current quarter, and significant results like these bode well for it.”
BRX has a market cap of ~$13.6m.
TNG has received $300m in debt funding for its flagship Mount Peak Vanadium Titanium Iron Project in the Northern Territory.
The Mount Peake Project is one of only 15 Australian critical minerals projects identified by the Australian Government in its critical minerals priority road map.
The Australian Government’s Export Credit Agency – Export Finance Australia – issued the conditional and non-binding letter of support, highlighting the broad alignment of Mount Peak with objectives of the Australian Government’s critical minerals strategy.
Its strategy aims to diversify global critical minerals supply and capture more from the critical minerals value chain.
TNG managing director and CEO Paul Burton says the company is “delighted”.
“This non-binding Letter of Support lays a solid foundation for TNG to secure the debt financing package for the development of its Mount Peake Project.”
Manganese play E25 has extended mineralisation at its Butcherbird Project after receiving assay results for a 34-hole exploration drilling program for 904m.
E25 says ‘commercially significant’ grades and widths of manganese in multiple holes have been confirmed and point to the potential for future discoveries.
This new information will also be included in the next resource model update for Butcherbird as more drill planning gets underway.
The company says it plans to infill and better define mineralisation extensions as well as evaluate further extensions to mineralisation trends.
EFE was once an iron ore junior but is now all-in on lithium and shares in the company were rocketing yesterday on news of some ‘outstanding’ lithium assays at the Trigg Hill Project in WA’s East Pilbara.
The company has been conducting field work at the project since March, which has included mapping, rock chip sampling of outcropping pegmatites and soil sampling.
Assay results from the first 124 rock chip samples have confirmed visual observations of highly anomalous levels of lithium as well as caesium, tantalum, and tin confirming the presence of fractionated LCT pegmatites.
Of the samples collected from the large East Curlew pegmatite swarm, at least 80% were from LCT pegmatites.
We’re talking results of up to 2.28% lithium, 1.23% rubidium, 1,552ppm caesium, 514ppm tantalum and 2,921ppm tin.
Results of 231 soil samples from the Curlew East area are pending analysis, and subject to the results, the soil sampling may be extended to other areas.
The ~$38mn market cap company had $4.85m cash in the bank at the end of the March quarter.
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