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Battery metals plant proponent Queensland Pacific Metals has moved to the next stage in its bid to attract Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility funding.

The company said the strategic assessment phase of the NAIF Application process had been successfully completed and it was proceeding to due diligence.

“I am delighted that NAIF has accepted the TECH project to move into the due diligence stage,” QPM managing director and chief executive officer Stephen Grocott said.

“This is vindication of the opportunity we have to build a world-leading manufacturing facility of battery metals which will be a game changer for nickel laterite processing, whilst also delivering significant benefits to Townsville and greater North Queensland.”

QPM is working to secure the debt and equity financing solutions required to reach Final Investment Decision on the Townsville project.

It views NAIF’s decision to progress to due diligence stage as a significant step towards attracting other debt financiers and building the optimum debt syndicate.

The proposed TECH facility at the Lansdown Eco-Industrial Precinct on Townsville’s outskirts would produce key battery chemicals, extracted from ore imported from New Caledonia.

Battery maker LG Energy Solution and Korean steel producer POSCO are backing the project to the tune of more than $19 million ($US15 million).

They have entered into a binding agreement for equity investment in TECH proponent Queensland Pacific Metals, as well as binding offtake agreements for 10,000 tonnes contained nickel and 1000 tonnes contained cobalt from the project.

Early this year QPM formally committed to expanding the TECH project to process 1.2 – 1.5 million wet tpa ore, at least twice the capacity contemplated in the pre-feasibility study.

It also produced an updated project schedule, with construction expected to start around April next year and first production targeted for 2023.