The Queensland government has given the go-ahead for a $250 million vanadium mine near Julia Creek that it says will pioneer production of a globally sought-after new economy mineral, and support up to 400 regional jobs.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, Resources Minister Scott Stewart and Multicom Resources' chief executive officer Shaun McCarthy jointly announced the go-ahead for the Saint Elmo mine on Wednesday.
"I congratulate Multicom as the first cab off the rank in an exciting new era for Queensland's resources sector, and a massive boost to our COVID-19 economic recovery plan," Ms Palaszczuk said. "Vanadium will fuel Queensland's future as a global resources supplier for decades to come."
The mineral is an important ingredient in the manufacture of specialty steel and can be used in large-scale renewable batteries around the world because it can be charged thousands of times without degrading.
Mining it lays a foundation for a potential next level new industry in Queensland for manufacturing vanadium redox flow batteries.
"This project, and these jobs, are a milestone in a journey that began seven years ago with the Queensland government's North West Minerals Province Taskforce," Ms Palaszczuk said.
According to Resources Minister Scott Stewart, the new Saint Elmo mine demonstrated the government's successful approach to enabling a prosperous resources sector.
"Consistent with our policy of fostering new economy minerals development, the Geological Survey of Queensland is constantly gathering data on the state's mineral endowment," Mr Stewart said.
"The government makes that pre-competitive data available to explorers free of charge to help de-risk their exploration activity.
"This data gives companies like Multicom the confidence they needed to support investment and a mining lease application.
"The government supports the sector with grants funding exploration activity, and vanadium has been a target of that."
The federal government's environment department gave the project its tick of approval in April 2021.
Conditions for federal approval included the proviso Multicom must not clear more than 7419 hectares of Julia Creek dunnart habitat within the project area.
As well as a mine, the project includes a processing plant, rail spur line into the mine site, workforce accommodation village and associated infrastructure including an off-site water supply dam and 20km pipeline to the project site.
Multicom CEO Shaun McCarthy said mine construction was planned to start in 2022, supporting 250 jobs at peak, with first production forecast for late 2023.
"Saint Elmo is initially forecast to produce up to 5000 tonnes per annum of vanadium pentoxide, supporting at least 150 mine jobs and operating for up to 20 years," he said.
"As the project expands production to 20,000 tonnes per annum over time, there'll be an additional 100 operational and 150 construction jobs created.
"We expect around three-quarters of the workforce to either live in Julia Creek or McKinlay Shire, or to travel from surrounding communities of Cloncurry, Richmond and Mount Isa.
"Multicom will also source our suppliers from the local region as much as possible and is well-supported by the well-established supply chain along the Townsville to Mt Isa corridor.
"With ore processing to occur onsite and product to be shipped globally from the Port of Townsville, Multicom will benefit from the reliable logistics solution provided by the Flinders Highway and Queensland Rail's Mount Isa Line"
Saint Elmo is the first mine approved in a potential vanadium hub in the far north west, with other companies progressing other potential mines.
The Saint Elmo project was declared a prescribed project in February last year so Queensland's Coordinator-General could streamline approvals and fast-track delivery of the project.
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