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Australia-India to Research New Critical Minerals Extraction Tech

Rare earth elements are the driving force behind electric vehicles, and renewable energy generation and are crucial to the manufacture of many high-tech products. However, while they are highly valued across many sectors, they can be problematic to extract due to mineralogical and chemistry issues in processing, which can pose significant challenges for minimising energy and water consumption.

Australia is a leader in modern and sustainable approaches to rare earth production. The new Lynas Rare Earths Processing Facility in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia is a prime example that has recently received Environmental Approval.

Newly-funded research at the University of South Australia could further transform the way rare earth elements and other vital battery metals are recovered from the earth, enabling efficient extraction with decreased environmental footprint.

Dr Richmond Asamoah from UniSA’s Future Industry Institute is developing new ways to safely extract critical minerals from downstream ore processing, tailings reprocessing, and wastewater treatments. He is also developing mechanisms to safely recycle spent products from scrap batteries and magnets.

Dr Asamoah stated that rare earth minerals and battery metals are vital for the economic wellbeing of the world’s major and emerging economies, yet their supply is not reliable due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, and trade policy. Accumulated mining wastes, from a range of primary commodities, are becoming an increasingly valuable source of metals, but there is often a lack of viable extraction technologies.

The team’s research will apply new technologies to evaluate their capabilities to both extract minerals from the low-grade process and mineral tailings streams, together with recyclable spent batteries and magnets”.

The project will test two patented metal recovery processes – resin in pulp and resin in the moist mix (InnovEco Australia) – to extract target metals from low-grade ores, fine minerals and wastes such as tailings. These methods can also be used for process water treatment.

Funded by the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, the research will deliver significant benefits to both countries. The team is not only talking about environmental benefits, but also economic and sustainable technologies that both countries can use to extract rare earth and battery minerals from current mining operations.

Rare earth elements contribute nearly $200 billion to the Indian economy, yet despite India having the world’s fifth-largest reserves of critical metals, they mostly import their rare earth needs from China. This project hopes to enable Australia to export rare earth minerals to India, as an alternative to China, as well as to empower India to establish eco-technologies to extract minerals and metals within their borders.

Importantly, the research will build capacity for processing critical minerals in Australia and India and create many new eco-efficient opportunities for economic growth, education, employment and investment.

This international research collaboration includes the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research – Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (CSIR – IMMT), Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT), and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) as research partners, together with InnovEco Australia and Care of Our Environment (COOE) as translation partners.

More about The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF)

The Australia-India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) Round 14 Collaborative Research Project grant opportunity supports collaborative research projects between Australia and India. The AISRF provides grants for collaborative research projects with Indian partners. For Round 14 of the AISRF, the project must involve research in a focused priority area and must be mutually beneficial for Australia and India.

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