Tag Archives: scandium

Clean TeQ spells out battery raw materials potential of Sunrise project

Clean TeQ Holdings and Fluor Australia have come up with a Project Execution Plan (PEP) for the Sunrise Battery Materials project in New South Wales, Australia, that, Clean TeQ says, confirms the asset’s status as one of the world’s lowest cost, development-ready sources of critical battery raw materials.

This builds on a 2018 definitive feasibility study on Sunrise that modelled the first 25 years of production at the project.

In production, it will be a major supplier of nickel and cobalt to the lithium-ion battery market, and scandium to the aerospace, consumer electronics and automotive sectors, according to Clean TeQ.

The PEP scope of works included a range of studies which have optimised metal production rates while holding autoclave ore feed constant at the approved maximum 2.5 Mt/y, it said. This saw average annual (metal equivalent) production rates of 21,293 t of nickel and 4,366 t of cobalt in years two to 11; and 18,439 t of nickel and 3,179 t of cobalt from year two to 25.

On top of this, the PEP considered a scandium oxide refining capacity of up to 20 t/y installed from year three, which can readily be expanded to 80 t/y with around A$25 million ($18 million) capital expenditure on additional refining capacity.

“As the scandium market grows, future investment in a dedicated resin-in-pulp scandium extraction circuit and further refining capacity offers the potential to increase by-product scandium production to up to approximately 150 tonnes per annum,” Clean TeQ said.

The pre-production capital cost estimate of $1.658 billion (excluding $168 million estimated contingency) reflects a significantly de-risked capital cost, with approximately 79% of total equipment and materials costs covered by vendor quotations, Clean TeQ said. Submissions were also obtained from contractors to validate the labour costs included in the total direct cost.

On the operating expenditure side, C1 costs came in at $4.31/Ib ($9,503/t) of nickel before by-product credits in years 2-11 and $4.58/Ib before by-product credits over years 2-25.

Using weighted average forecast (metal equivalent) sulphate prices over the life of mine of $24,200/t (including sulphate premium) for nickel and $59,200/t of cobalt, the project would generate a post-tax net present value of $1.21 billion, the company said.

Future value optimisation studies to assess opportunities to reduce capital expenditure in areas of off-site pre-assembly, modularisation and low-cost offshore procurement could further improve this return, it said.

The PEP assumed the project execution on an engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) basis. Prior to making a final investment decision, Clean TeQ will select an EPCM contractor for the engineering, procurement and construction phase of the project, it said.

Clean TeQ Co-Chairman, Robert Friedland, said: “Auto supply chains are coming to realise they are playing a game of nickel and cobalt musical chairs. We are half-way through the second verse and the music will eventually stop.

“We have a clear vision for how to create a sustainable auto supply chain of the future. Our team is proud to present that vision today. Sunrise is a long-life, low-cost, development-ready asset which is a template for consistent, sustainable and auditable nickel and cobalt supply. We cannot anticipate how long it will take to have the project funded and in development, but we can be patient with such a strategically important asset, and we are fully committed to ensuring it is developed with partners who understand the value that responsible supply chain integration brings.”

Although the level of activity associated with the PEP study and engineering works will now significantly reduce, Clean TeQ said a range of work-streams will continue in order to progress a number of value-adding deliverables aimed at minimising project restart time once funding is secured:

  • Work will be progressed on the long-lead electrical transmission line (ETL) work scope. The ETL application to connect to the NSW electrical grid is currently in progress and will continue through the 2021 financial year;
  • Progressing ongoing commercial discussions with landowners, local councils, the New South Wales state government and other impacted parties required for land access agreements for key infrastructure including the water pipeline and the ETL;
  • Surveying and planning for autoclave and oversize equipment transport routes to site;
  • Preliminary investigations to be undertaken on exploration licences for limestone resources, a key process reagent for which the company currently has a supply contract in place with a third party;
  • Test work and engineering assessing opportunities for potential further downstream processing of sulphates into battery precursor materials;
  • Ongoing environmental work including monitoring and compliance reporting;
  • The Sunrise Community Consultative Committee will be maintained along with several local community engagement/support programs; and
  • A range of scandium alloy development programs will continue to be progressed, consistent with Clean TeQ’s long term strategy to work with, and assist, industry players to investigate and develop new applications for scandium-aluminium alloys.

Australian Mines makes history with certified carbon neutral status

Australian Mines says it has become the first mineral resources company to be certified a “Carbon Neutral Organisation” under the Australian Government’s Climate Active program.

Climate Active is the most rigorous and credible carbon neutral certification available in Australia, according to the company, and meeting the “Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard” means Australian Mines’ carbon neutral status is based on best practice, international standards and genuine emissions reductions.

Last month, the Queensland Government offered a conditional financial support package to Australian Mines’ 100% owned Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project in the north of the state. When fully developed, Sconi is forecast to be one of the most cost competitive cobalt-producing, nickel operations in the world, Australian Mines says.

The 2018 Sconi bankable feasibility study outlined a three open pit, 2 Mt/y operation that could produce some 8,496 t/y of cobalt sulphate, 53,301 t/y of nickel sulphate and 89 t/y of scandium oxide over the 18-year mine life.

“Australian Mines ability to maintain carbon neutral certification will underpin its position as a sustainable business that incorporates leading environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices,” it said. The company is already an approved member of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA), which independently verifies and certifies socially and environmentally responsible mining.

Australian Mines’ Managing Director, Benjamin Bell, said becoming the first Climate Active Carbon Neutral mineral resources company is consistent with Australian Mines’ commitment to leading on ESG.

“It follows the approval in March 2020 of our membership of IRMA and the Queensland Government recognising our commitment to the communities where we operate by granting ‘Prescribed Project’ status to our flagship Sconi project in 2019,” he said.

Australian Mines’ primary focus is to sustainably develop the Sconi project into a globally significant, ethical, reliable source of technology metals to meet the rapid growth in the electric vehicle and energy storage industries, it says.

A key part of sustainably developing Sconi is the company’s carbon neutrality plan designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by implementing energy saving initiatives coupled with offsetting any unavoidable emissions.

“Being certified Carbon Neutral by Climate Active is part of building a sustainable future for Australian Mines, long-term value for our shareholders and a better environment for all our stakeholders,” Bell said. “Members of the Climate Active Network are responsible for over 22 Mt of carbon emissions being offset, which is the equivalent of taking all of Sydney’s cars off the road for two years.”

Australian Mines shoots for carbon neutral status

Australian Mines has teamed up with sustainability, carbon and energy management consultancy, Pangolin Associates, to develop a “Carbon Neutrality plan” and achieve 100% carbon neutral status by June 30.

Australian Mines, which is developing the Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project in Queensland, Australia, aims to become certified Carbon Neutral, under the Australian Government’s Climate Active Program, through reducing the company’s greenhouse gas emissions and offsetting its remaining carbon-generating activity, it said.

“Making the decision to become carbon neutral is part of Australian Mines’ ongoing commitment to building a sustainable business that incorporates leading environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices,” the company said.

The move follows the approval of the company’s membership of the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance (IRMA) in March 2020. The IRMA is an independent third-party organisation that verifies and certifies socially and environmentally responsible mining, according to Australian Mines, with the company now working towards IRMA certification specifically for the Sconi project.

Australian Mines aims to invest A$1 billion ($604,020) to build a commercial battery metals production plant on the Sconi site. The proposed plant is expected to process 2 Mt/y of ore into battery-grade cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate, with scandium recovery and production of high purity scandium oxide, it says. Over the life of the proposed Sconi project, 1.4 Mt of nickel sulphate and 200,000 t of cobalt sulphate is due to be produced.

Australian Mines Managing Director, Benjamin Bell, said being 100% carbon neutral was an extension of the company’s commitment to taking a leading position on ESG.

“It will follow on from the approval in March 2020 of our membership of IRMA and Sconi being given ‘Prescribed project’ status in early 2019 by the Queensland Government, which is a recognition of our commitment to the communities where we operate,” he said.

Australian Mines is partnering with Pangolin, which works with the Australian Government’s Climate Active Program, to develop a Carbon Neutrality plan. Australian Mines said it expected to begin implementing its plan by June 30 and be formally certified carbon neutral by the government before the end of the year.

Bell added: “We will join more than 90 organisations across Australia that have attained certified carbon neutrality, leading to over 15 Mt of carbon emissions being offset, or the equivalent of 4 million cars being off the road for a year.”

Cementation and Nordmin get the honours at NioCorp’s Elk Creek project

NioCorp Developments says Cementation USA, part of the Cementation Americas Group, has been selected as the lead engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contractor for the underground aspects of the proposed Elk Creek Superalloy Material project in Nebraska, USA.

In addition, the company announced that it intends to engage The Nordmin Group of Companies to provide engineering services for the project.

Based in Sandy, Utah, Cementation is a mining- and minerals-focused group of companies, delivering both underground and surface solutions for mines and downstream minerals processing facilities worldwide.

Negotiations towards a formal EPC agreement between NioCorp and Cementation will be initiated in the near future, according to NioCorp.

“Cementation provides broad expertise in both mine construction and mine engineering, and has a solid track record in safely executing on mine development projects around the world,” Mark A Smith, CEO and Executive Chairman of NioCorp, said. “We look forward to working with their team to build one of the few greenfield underground mine developments in North America, and to a long and mutually beneficial relationship.”

The superalloy materials project in southeast Nebraska will produce niobium, scandium, and titanium: superalloys that make steel lighter and stronger, can, when combined with aluminium make alloys with increased strength and improved corrosion resistance, and is a key component of pigments used in paper, paint and plastics, respectively.

Cementation’s Robert Gripper, EVP Contracting, USA, said: “It’s encouraging to see an owner embrace the EPC approach. We understand that mine owners are looking for engineering that adds value through the use of best practices and accounts for constructability and operability, and a construction team that is aligned with the engineer and owner. Such an approach lends itself to this.”

Nordmin, meanwhile, has demonstrated its expertise in designing an improved mine plan for the project, along with an innovative interpretation of the geologic resource and a sound plan for managing bedrock groundwater associated with the mine, according to NioCorp.

NioCorp said: “The company anticipates that any significant additional work on the project by Nordmin will be contingent on obtaining additional project financing, if and when available.”

Australian Mines moves forward with Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project

The bankable feasibility study on Australian Mines’ Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project in Queensland, Australia, has shown a three open pit, 2 Mt/y operation can be built for some $974 million.

For this investment, the company anticipates producing some 8,496 t/y of cobalt sulphate, 53,301 t/y of nickel sulphate and 89 t/y of scandium oxide over the 18-year mine life, generating a post-tax internal rate of return of 15%.

The 2 Mt/y processing plant is by far the biggest capital expense, coming in at $730 million. This will be based at the Greenvale site where the mining operation will also be centred.

The company then anticipates mining a separate open pit at Lucknow, 10 km to the southeast of Greenvale, with Greenvale and Lucknow being treated as a single-fleet mining area. The Kokomo open pit, 60 km to the north-northeast of Greenvale, will be operated with a separate mining fleet with ore to be hauled to the processing plant by road trains. Mining is expected to be carried out by contractor.

Total C1 cash costs for the Sconi production have come in at $0.48/Ib ($1,058/t) nickel (post cobalt and scandium credits). Given the near-surface nature of the laterite mineralisation at Sconi, the mining schedule encompasses a short pre-strip period of just three months, followed by around 12.5 years of mining operations, with a peak mining rate of up to 6 Mt/y, and then a further five years of stockpile processing operations.

The flowsheet includes a mix of crushing and grinding, high pressure acid leach, pressure oxidation leach and solvent extraction to produce the three separate products (scandium oxide, cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate).

In February, Australian Mines signed an offtake agreement term sheet with SK Innovation (a subsidiary of SK Holdings, one of South Korea’s largest companies) for 100% of the expected cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate production from the Sconi project for an initial period of seven years, with an option exercisable by SK Innovation to extend this commodity supply agreement for a further six years. SK will use the cobalt and nickel sulphate to supply their global electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants.

While the BFS anticipates only around 10% of scandium oxide produced being sold, the company is currently working with Metalysis and leading academic researchers at the Amrita Centre for Research and Development in India to develop new markets for the metal.

The next step for the company is securing the funds to complete development of Sconi, which Australian Mines envisages being wrapped up next year before mining and construction starts in 2020.