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Factbox-Australia pushes critical minerals processing industry

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - The Australian government said on Friday it was seeking investment from allies to develop its processing industry for minerals like lithium and rare earths that are critical to the energy transition and defence.

FILE PHOTO: A truck carrying rare earth travels towards Lynas Corp's Mount Weld processing plant, northeast of Perth, in Western Australia, August 23, 2019. REUTERS/Melanie Burton

Resource Minister Madeleine King flagged key sector developments in a speech in Sydney on Friday.

LITHIUM HYDROXIDE PROCESSING PLANTS

In operation, construction or advanced planning in Western Australia:

* Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia’s lithium hydroxide refinery at Kwinana, a joint venture between China’s Tianqi Lithium, with a 51% stake, and Australian miner IGO Ltd. with 49%, is set to produce 24,000 tonnes a year by end 2023.

* The MARBL refinery at Kemerton, a 60:40 joint venture between U.S. producer Albemarle Corp and Australia’s Mineral Resources, will produce 50,000 tonnes a year once fully operational.

* Covalent Lithium’s proposed refinery at Kwinana is set to produce 50,000 tonnes a year starting up from 2024. It is jointly owned by Chile’s Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile S.A. (SQM) and Australia’s Wesfarmers Ltd.

RARE EARTHS PROCESSING

Australia is only involved in very early stages of processing rare earths, an industry dominated by China.

* Top global exporter Lynas Rare Earths is building its Kalgoorlie cracking and leaching plant in central Australia.

* Hastings Technology Metals is also constructing a cracking and leaching plant, Yangibana, in Western Australia. Project financing is underpinned by a supply agreement with Germany’s Thyssenkrupp.

* Iluka Resources Ltd is establishing its Eneabba Rare Earths Refinery Project in Western Australia that will help move further downstream to the production of rare earth oxides.

The Australian Government has approved a A$1.25 billion ($847 million) loan to support the project through its Critical Minerals Facility. The refinery will be able to process multiple rare earth feedstocks – creating a market opportunity for other rare earth projects, such as that of Northern Minerals.

* Australian Strategic Metals is also supporting supply chain diversification through the development of its Dubbo rare earths project in New South Wales, which will be processed in South Korea.

* Arafura Resources has supply agreements with General Electric, Hyundai Motor and Kia Corp from 2025.

($1 = 1.4765 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell

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