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Critical Minerals on HPA value-adding mission in Queensland

Critical Minerals Group managing director Scott Winter and Lava Blue managing director Michael McCann sign a license agreement. Credit: File

Critical Minerals Group will investigate the high-purity alumina (HPA) production potential of its Lindfield project in Queensland after signing a new agreement with mineral processing technology company Lava Blue.

The deal will allow the two companies to further refine the project’s processing technology and develop the HPA production stream at the Lindfield vanadium project, 30km from the town of Julia Creek.

Management says recent beneficiation testwork has shown it can produce 4N-grade HPA , meaning 99.99 per cent purity, using Lava Blue’s technology. It also believes there is potential for further upgrading with minor optimisation.

The Lindfield project’s resource estimate includes 254 million tonnes at 0.44 per cent vanadium pentoxide and 4.75 per cent aluminium oxide in the indicated category.

The license agreement will support the design, construction, operation, maintenance, repair and modification of an HPA plant at the site using Lava Blue technology. The company says the deal is one of only three that will be granted from Lava Blue for refining HPA from Toolebuc ore and is in place for a three-year period.

We are extremely excited to be in a position to be able to partner with Lava Blue in the development of the HPA and other co-products in the processing of the Lindfield project ore. The resource has identified HPA as a potential product stream, and we saw very early in the testing program that with the Lava Blue technology, we were able to achieve results well beyond our initial expectations after such a short period and without extensive investigation. Critical Minerals Group managing director Scott Winter

Management says the deposit is amenable to shallow open-pit mining techniques, with a higher-grade 138 million tonnes at 0.46 per cent vanadium pentoxide sitting in the surface-to-10m zone. A further 133 million tonnes lies in the next 10m-to-20m section.

Critical Minerals says Lindfield ore is both soft and at surface, with a low strip ratio facilitating a potential mining operation that would require no drilling, blasting or milling. It says high-grade mineralisation starting from surface will only enhance its project economics for a development case.

HPA has a growing demand within the lithium-ion battery sector, where the product is used as a coating on the separator sheets between the cathode and anode. It is also used in the manufacture of synthetic sapphire – a transparent, high-strength material that is used in a variety of applications such as LED lights, semi-conductor wafers and premium watch faces.

In 2021, the Queensland Government committed $10 million from the “Invested in Queensland” program towards a vanadium common user facility in Townsville for an industrial pilot and demonstration facility for mineral processing. Earlier this year, the Queensland Government allocated $75 million to the facility to support further extraction of HPA, cobalt and rare earths, in addition to vanadium production.

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