Rare earth elements are a prime focus for the Minerals unit of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) as they receive a $13.9 million funding allocation through the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub.

Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia, the Hon. Madeleine King MP, announced this funding earlier this week. ANSTO’s funding is earmarked for a research project aimed at expediting the discovery, extraction, and processing of rare earth elements found in clay-hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth deposits. This financial support is part of a larger $22 million package designed to bolster three vital research initiatives under the R&D Hub, which involves collaboration between Australian Government science agencies ANSTO, CSIRO, and Geoscience Australia.

Shaun Jenkinson, CEO of ANSTO, expressed that ANSTO Minerals’ extensive experience in working with rare earth elements positions them to unlock the potential of these lower-grade Australian deposits. He emphasized that Australia already possesses abundant high-grade rare earth deposits and significant expertise in resource extraction techniques, placing the country in a strong global position.

The funding will enable ANSTO to gain deeper insights into the mineralogy and processing methods required for clay-hosted and ionic adsorption deposits, which contain higher concentrations of valuable magnet metals. Over a two-year period, working in collaboration with Geoscience Australia and CSIRO, this project will help ANSTO:

  1. Evaluate Australia’s potential for clay-hosted and ionic adsorption rare earth element deposits.
  2. Develop and test mineral processing approaches tailored to these deposits.
  3. Showcase how these deposits can be seamlessly integrated into existing rare earth element separation processes to produce high-purity rare earth elements.
  4. Establish a dedicated testing facility at ANSTO.
  5. Enhance the environmental sustainability of critical minerals mining and processing.

ANSTO will also contribute expertise to separate projects led by CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, focusing on metallisation and gallium recovery, respectively. These initiatives are part of the broader effort to advance the critical minerals sector in Australia, as they play a vital role in various key technologies, including electronic devices, transportation, and telecommunications, as well as green technologies such as electric vehicles, wind turbines, and solar panels.

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ANSTO is dedicated to collaborating with its R&D Hub partners, Geoscience Australia and CSIRO, along with the Critical Minerals Office at the Department of Industry, Science, and Resources, to further develop Australia’s critical minerals resources and support the commitment to net zero emissions.

Established in October 2022, the R&D Hub harnesses the combined expertise of Australia’s leading scientific agencies to address technical challenges and promote collaborative research across the critical minerals value chain, aligning with Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2023-2030.

Currently, the R&D Hub is facilitating seven funded research projects, including ANSTO’s leadership in a High Purity Quartz (HPQ) project, which aims to develop sovereign processing capabilities for HPQ production for Australian producers. For more information on the R&D Hub and its projects, you can visit the R&D Hub website.

About ANSTO’s Minerals Unit: ANSTO, serving as Australia’s nuclear excellence center for over seven decades, houses some of the nation’s most significant scientific and research infrastructure. ANSTO provides access to state-of-the-art instruments and the expertise of its scientists, researchers, and engineers to thousands of scientists, industry professionals, and academics each year.

ANSTO’s Minerals unit, located in Lucas Heights, Sydney, has been collaborating with Australia’s mining industry for over 40 years, delivering innovative and practical processing solutions. This unit boasts world-leading expertise in processing critical and strategic metals, including rare earths, scandium, lithium, zirconium, niobium, and hafnium. For the latest news and information about ANSTO’s Minerals consultancy services, you can visit their website at www.ansto.gov.au/services/resources-sector/minerals.


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