The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) said rare earths will be a key area of focus for its minerals unit after it received $13.9 million in funding under the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub.
Announced recently by Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King, the funding will support an ANSTO project to accelerate the discovery, extraction, and processing of rare earth elements from clay-hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth deposits.
Shaun Jenkinson, CEO of ANSTO, said the extensive experience of the organisation’s Minerals unit with rare earth elements will help unlock the potential for these lower-grade Australian deposits.
“Australia already has a rich supply of high-grade rare earths deposits and strong expertise in processing techniques to extract the most out of our resources, that puts us in a strong position globally,” Jenkinson said.
“This funding will allow us to gain an even greater understanding of the mineralogy and processing routes needed to tap into clay-hosted and ionic adsorption deposits, which have higher ratios of sought-after magnet metals.”
The funding is part of a $22 million package to support three key research projects under the R&D Hub for its participating Australian Government science agencies: ANSTO, CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia.
The two-year project will enable ANSTO to develop and test mineral processing options specific to clay-hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth element deposits and demonstrate how these deposits can be integrated into existing rare earth element separation processes to produce high-purity rare earth elements.
Ultimately, the project aims to enhance the environmental outcomes of critical minerals mining and processing.
“Critical and strategic minerals such as rare earths, uranium, and lithium already form a large part of ANSTO’s Minerals business. The recent shift in focus towards diversifying and securing their supply chains is an exciting re-direction to unlocking Australia’s critical minerals resources and supporting our commitment to net zero,” Jenkinson said.
“ANSTO is looking forward to continuing this invaluable work with our R&D Hub partners – Geoscience Australia, and CSIRO – and the Critical Minerals Office at the Department of Industry, Science and Resources.”