What a day for Government funding. Not one, not two, but three critical minerals companies nabbed some sweet cash today.

Two graphite players – Renascor Resources (ASX:RNU) and Ecograf (ASX:EGR) – were both conditionally approved for loans under the Commonwealth’s $2 billion Critical Minerals Facility.

And rare earths company Hastings Technology Metals (ASX:HAS) secured $140 million from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

$185m for Renascor’s Siviour project

2021 punter favourite  Renascor has been conditionally approved for a $185m government loan to build its Siviour graphite project in South Australia.

The loan should cover a huge of chunk of stage 1 start-up capital requirements of ~$200m.

“The Siviour Graphite Project represents an important opportunity for Australia, and South Australia in particular, to develop a world class, globally competitive downstream processing capability in a critical mineral that is fundamental to the development of the electric vehicle revolution,” MD David Christensen says.

The company is targeting a Final Investment Decision (FID) on the project later this year.

Siviour could be among the world’s lowest cost producers of an important graphite product for EVs called purified spherical graphite (PSG).

Market data suggests an average operating cost of ~US$2,000/t for the existing PSG market, which is 100% based in China.

RNU’s gross operating cost of US$1,989/t PSG “is favourable by comparison”, it says.

Pricing agency Fastmarkets says PSG prices were up 40% over the 12 months to November 2021 to between US$3,100 and US$3,300 per tonne.


US$40m for battery anode material facility

Fellow graphite player Ecograf was also conditionally approved for a loan of up to US$40 million under the Critical Minerals Facility, to support the planned expansion of its battery anode material facility to 20,000tpa.

The proposed loan is subject to conditions including the successful construction and commissioning of the initial 5,000tpa facility in WA and the execution of material agreements for the expansion construction, operations and sales arrangements.

The company says the facility is ideally located to benefit from clean hydrogen developments proposed for the Kwinana-Rockingham area by multinational energy groups Woodside and BP, which will provide an additional source of clean energy for processing operations.

The facility will use the company’s environmentally superior and cost-effective purification technology to produce high quality battery anode material using natural flake graphite for export to Asia, Europe and North America.

And it’s not the only unique process under the company’s belt. In December Ecograf submitted a patent application for its process to recycle battery anode material generated from lithium-ion battery production processes and end-of-life batteries.


$140m NAIF funding for rare earths project

Rare earths player Hastings received approvals for a significant portion of the debt package required to fund construction of its Yangibana Rare Earths project in WA from the Federal Government’s Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) – who will supply a $140 million, 12.5-year tenor loan facility.

The NAIF loan forms part of the $300-400 million of total debt funding required for Yangibana.

The project is expected to meet approximately 6-8% of global demand for the critical minerals of neodymium and praseodymium used in the manufacture of permanent magnets.

And Hastings says the Federal Government’s commitment to the project comes at a significant inflexion point for the global rare earths sector amid a drive by rare earths magnet-end users to secure responsible and reliable sources of supply.

“The commitment by NAIF will enable Hastings to finalise the funding requirements for Yangibana’s development and move into full-scale construction throughout 2022, with the objective of delivering first production by 2024,” executive chairman Charles Lew said.

Early site works have commenced, and the company recently received Commonwealth environmental approvals to develop the hydrometallurgical plant site at ANSIA near Onslow.

Hastings expects to complete supporting infrastructure activities by the middle of this year in advance of commencing construction of the beneficiation plant in conjunction with the hydrometallurgical plant.