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ABx Group raises extra $1.5m to fully fund ALCORE pilot plant

Updated: Mar 21

ABx Group chief executive officer Mark Cooksey monitoring laboratory-scale testing for the extraction of hydrogen fluoride from aluminium smelter waste. Credit: File

ABx Group’s ALCORE pilot plant in NSW is now fully funded to completion after the company raised an extra $1.5 million to complement a $7.5 million grant received from the Australian Government through its Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI).

Under the placement, 18.75 million fully paid shares will be issued to an assembly of professional and sophisticated investors at 8 cents, a 17 per cent discount to the company’s 30-day weighted average price. As an added incentive, for every two shares subscribed, investors will also receive one option with an exercise price of 12 cents set to expire in September, 2025.

ALCORE, a majority-owned subsidiary of ABx, is a chemicals company that has developed a world-first process that can produce hydrogen fluoride from an aluminium smelter waste product. A later-stage commercial plant then further reacts the hydrogen fluoride to produce aluminium fluoride - a high-value chemical essential for aluminium smelting.

Construction at the NSW Central Coast site has started and the company has taken delivery of the bath mini-reactor “MkII”, with formal commissioning of the plant just days away. MkII employs state-of-the-art technology to enhance process mixing which, according to management, is expected to achieve a high yield of fluorine from the aluminium smelter waste.

ABx says the technical scope of the pilot plant has been finalised and costings for all major pieces of equipment have been nailed down, with the final contractual details being finessed prior to opening the order book on the big-ticket items.

The company has banked $5.7 million of the $7.5 million funding it was granted under the MMI scheme. Into its second round, the scheme was established to develop world-leading manufacturers on Australian soil to seize opportunities from sustainability, the clean energy transition and waste reduction demands by leveraging Australia’s advantages in innovation, technology, renewable and mineral resources and its onshore industrial base.

In combination with the MMI grant, the ALCORE pilot plant facility is now fully funded. This is a major milestone for ABx, and we are excited about operating this pilot plant in 2024. ABx Group chief executive officer Mark Cooksey

Australia is the biggest producer of primary aluminum metal without its own domestic aluminium fluoride production, with the nation’s aluminium smelters relying entirely on imported aluminium fluoride, sourced mostly from China.

China typically chips in more than 80 per cent of the global production of the compound, but that figure dipped to just 40 per cent in 2021, highlighting potential supply risks.

While ABx’s innovative pilot plant will be the only one of its kind in Australia – and just one of a handful worldwide – a production plant is pencilled in for Bell Bay in Tasmania, merely a stone’s throw from a major aluminium smelter.

The initial plant is proposed to treat 1600 tonnes per year of aluminium smelter “bath” into hydrogen fluoride, with a portion of that to be further processed to aluminium fluoride. ABx’s longer-term plan is to expand the plant by 15 times, making it capable of processing all of Australia’s aluminium smelter bath and supplying more than 80 per cent of the country’s aluminium fluoride requirements.

Finding a problem to solve is a key characteristic of an innovative company. The next trick is to harness the required skills and develop the technology, all at the right cost. ABx, through its ALCORE subsidiary, looks to be blazing a trail in developing a world-first process while supplying the bulk of Australia’s aluminium fluoride needs – all on home soil.

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