Critical Minerals Shines Spotlight On QLD Vanadium

Critical Minerals Group has the white hot battery metals space by the horns with the promise of the latest metal du jour, vanadium, looming large for the company that only listed on the ASX less than three months ago. Critical is seeking to carve out a name for itself with its Lindfield project in the heart of prime vanadium country in Queensland that it says could develop into an ideal operation for open cut mining.
The growing importance of vanadium amongst metals that are critical to the future of Australia’s economy has already been recognised by both State and Federal Governments that have announced funding and incentive schemes designed to secure domestic supply of the important element.
There are a number of mining companies in Queensland already seeking to develop vanadium projects in the Julia Creek and Richmond regions, which all house world-class resources.
Vanadium has been traditionally used in high-strength, low-alloy steel, however the current hype surrounding the metal is due to its central role in vanadium redox flow batteries that are suited to large, grid scale energy storage solutions. Its rise is such that it is now considered one of the new economy minerals used in advanced and renewable energy technologies.
Critical Minerals Group holds a 295 square kilometre project in the North West mineral province in Queensland about 30km from the town of Julia Creek. The company’s flagship Lindfield vanadium project has an inferred JORC resource of 210 million tonnes at a grade of 0.39 per cent vanadium oxide from surface. The deposit is shallow with a cut-off grade of 0.3 per cent vanadium oxide.
The company has just wrapped up a maiden drill campaign at Lindfield where it sunk a total of 23 air-core holes for 860m in addition to one open hole and three water monitoring holes with assay results expected before the end of the year. Critical says the program was designed to strengthen the geological understanding of the mineralisation at the site, with the aim of potentially increasing the known resource and to assist in its plan to provide ore for metallurgical testing.
Notably, Lindfield is surrounded by a number of advanced operations including Multicom Resources’ St Elmo project that was the first site in Queensland to receive a mining licence for vanadium last year.
The ore at Lindfield is both soft and at surface. A potential mining operation at the site would require no drilling, blasting or milling and the company says the low strip ratio makes the operation ideal for open cut mining. The geology of the site also gives the deposit an advantage for beneficiation and allows for a higher vanadium oxide concentrate upgrade by using flotation separation.
Critical Minerals is currently undertaking metallurgical testing using samples from its maiden drill campaign.
Last year the Queensland Government committed $10 million from the “Invested in Queensland” program towards a vanadium common user facility in Townsville for an industrial pilot and demonstration facility for mineral processing.
Critical says it aims to leverage off the significant grants and incentives put in place to develop domestic vanadium production with a particular focus on vanadium redox flow batteries as a grid scale energy solution.
The ore will be transported from Julia Creek to the Townsville site before being processed through a series of methods including separation, flotation and roasting prior to refining through a kiln and fusion furnace to produce the vanadium pentoxide.
The facility is intended to trial production processes for commercialisation, enabling prospective miners to begin producing mineral samples at scale. The aim is to accelerate the development of commercial vanadium projects, promote investment in advanced mineral manufacturing opportunities and enable development of supply chain and supporting industries in Queensland.
The vanadium processing plant follows the State Government’s decision to tip a cool $15 million into the Queensland-based National Battery Testing Centre, or “NBTC” that tests multiple types and sizes of battery systems in real-world conditions and will be an essential part of ramping up battery manufacturing in the state. The investment in the NBTC is expected to leverage up to $35 million in university and industry investment providing a total funding injection of approximately $50 million over five years. The facility provides validation and safety testing for all types of batteries with various chemistries, including lithium-ion and the larger vanadium redox flow batteries.
Market intelligence firm Guidehouse Insights says demand for vanadium batteries will grow 800 per cent to US$7.76 billion by 2031, largely on the back of China’s ambitious carbon neutrality goals.
Vanadium batteries have been found to handle more charge cycles, are easily expandable at little extra cost, are safer and have a lower decay rate than lithium-ion batteries, making them ideal for large-scale storage applications such as utilities.
Critical Minerals Group attracted positive interest when it listed on the ASX in September this year including receiving significant backing from petroleum giant Idemitsu. The Japanese company’s subsidiary Idemitsu Australia has a focus on innovation and is currently exploring solar, hydro, wind and battery hybrid alternatives across Queensland and New South Wales. The parent company currently holds a share of more than 30 per cent in Critical Minerals Group.
In addition to its Lindfield tenements, Critical Minerals has also recently locked in two additional projects with its Figtree Creek and Lorena Surrounds projects. Both sites appear to be prospective for oxide copper and gold mineralisation within the North West Mineral Province of Queensland.
With its maiden drill program at Lindfield completed and assay results expected in the near future, Critical Minerals Group could be looking at a significant resource upgrade to start the new year. And given the Queensland and Federal Government’s support through incentive schemes, the company could well be in for a busy year in 2023.