Supporting critical minerals research and development
The Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub (the R&D Hub) is hosted by the CSIRO and brings together expertise from leading Federal science agencies: the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Geoscience Australia (GA), and CSIRO. The R&D Hub will work with industry to address technical challenges and drive collaborative research across the critical minerals value chain needed to support clean energy and Australia’s net zero policy agenda.
The top priorities of the R&D Hub are to:
- scale-up and commercialise critical minerals research and development – including priority research projects on supply chains of strategic significance
- help coordinate, guide and prioritise critical minerals research and development efforts across Australia
- connect critical minerals projects to the technical and research expertise they need
- support strategic international critical minerals collaboration and science diplomacy.
Members of the R&D Hub are based around Australia, drawing on the collective expertise of ANSTO, GA and CSIRO to ensure the R&D Hub is a collaborative and adaptive environment, focussed on the advancement of the Australian critical minerals industry.
This initiative will fund priority innovative research projects aimed at supporting the sector.
The research priorities are to:
- value-add, improve processing economics and enhance environmental, social and governance (ESG)
- use orebody geoscience for development and discovery
- improve skills, capability and capacity.
The first tranche of projects is underway and tranche 2 will be considered later in the year (2023). There are currently three research projects funded by the R&D Hub:
Criticality and opportunity assessment
To guide strategic investment, Australia requires an objective assessment of critical minerals needs and vulnerabilities (“criticality”) for its economy and sovereign capability. To date, Australia’s Critical Minerals List has been shaped with reference to the geostrategic and economic opportunities arising from the needs of our partners and allies, rather than an assessment of what supply chains Australia must itself secure for current or future applications and industries.
This project is led by Geoscience Australia and aims to help establish an evidence base to inform priorities for critical minerals research and development and critical minerals policy such as updates to Australia’s Critical Minerals List.
The Criticality Study will assess:
- Australia’s critical minerals export and import vulnerabilities; and
- the extent to which minerals are critical for Australia’s economy, future sovereign capabilities and security.
The project will generate public and classified outputs and tools to assist government policy and decision-making.
Development of processing routes for high purity silica production from Australian resources
High Purity Silica (HPS) is a key commodity for high tech applications such as photovoltaics and semiconductors. This project will be delivered collaboratively by ANSTO and Geoscience Australia. ANSTO will be responsible for the development of processing routes for HPS production from Australian silica resources, and to make the associated know how and IP available for all future Australian projects. Geoscience Australia will be responsible for reviewing and advancing the knowledge of the formation of HPS deposits in Australia; undertaking mineral potential and economic modelling to identify regions of high potential for mineral extraction and processing; and developing tools to assist decision-making by government and industry.
Development pathways for Australian High Purity Alumina (HPA)
Through this project, the CSIRO will carry out research and development work on novel purification methods across a wide range of feedstocks, while also developing up new analytical capability to benchmark HPA product quality. The project aims to capitalise on Australia’s plentiful supply of aluminium-containing feedstocks and to develop intellectual property that could assist Australian companies to enter this strategic and lucrative market.
HPA is a unique material used in a range of technologies from batteries to semiconductors and synthetic sapphire. Current global HPA production utilises expensive highly purified aluminium metal and provides the simplest routes to guaranteed high-quality product albeit with obvious energetic and environmental limitations. A breakthrough in impurity control could provide a basis for lower energy, more economically viable pathways to HPA that start with cheaper raw materials such as clays or industrial feedstock or waste streams.
Partnership between ANSTO, CSIRO , Geoscience Australia and the Australian Government, Department of Industry, Science and Resources.