Australian Mines (ASX:AUZ) fell off the map when a comprehensive nickel-cobalt supply deal with South Korean battery maker SK Innovation was terminated late last year.

Offtake was — and still is — crucial to finalising a very large, very complex financing package for the +$1 billion Sconi nickel-cobalt development in Queensland.

For Australian Mines, locking in finance is a process made extra difficult by a prolonged downturn in prices for battery raw materials.

But with a supply crunch widely expected within the next five years, Australian Mines has evidently kept the faith.

The company will kick off a series of production runs at its demonstration plant in Perth to supply battery grade nickel and cobalt to a fresh bunch of potential off-take partners.

The production runs are to expedite discussions with these companies; discussions that are currently “preliminary, incomplete and confidential”, Australian Mines says.

The plant will also produce high purity scandium oxide for a potential research and development partner, also unnamed, “seeking to expand the industrial applications of scandium”.

Australian Mines managing director Ben Bell says this early stage interest in Sconi offtake is “encouraging”.

“Sconi is expected to be a low-cost, ethical source of high-grade technology metals at a time of huge demand for these commodities driven by the rapid growth in the electric vehicle and energy storage industries,” he says.

NOW READ: EV manufacturers used 28pc more nickel per car in 2019, Adamas reports


In other ASX tech metals news today:

Ecograf (ASX:EGR) has successfully used its graphite purification tech to recycle lithium-ion battery anode material in Germany.

As graphite comprises almost 50 per cent of a typical lithium-ion battery, “the successful trial represents a major step forward to support electric vehicle and battery manufacturers achieve sustainable, closed-loop manufacturing processes”, the company says. The $20m market cap stock moved 18 per cent higher in morning trade.

Last week, Ecograf said it had “in principle debt funding support” from the Australian government for a proposed $US72m ($110.2m) battery graphite purification plant in Kwinana, Perth. The proposed $US35m debt funding package would cover about 50 per cent of total construction costs, the company says.


Aspiring graphite producer BlackEarth Minerals (ASX:BEM) will move to the next stage of qualification testing with the world’s largest battery anode company, BTR New Energy. BTR has now requested a bigger graphite concentrate sample for evaluation.

“The sample endorsement given by BTR, as a global tier 1 natural graphite spheronising/anode producing company, highlights the focus and competencies BlackEarth is applying to this important (qualification) period of DFS development for its Maniry graphite project,” managing director Tom Revy says.