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Sconi mine proponent Australian Mines is turning its focus to the potential to switch to a more lucrative product line at the North Queensland project, poised to meet the needs of the global electric vehicle sector.

The company has accelerated research and development into the production of high value-add precursor cathode active material (P-CAM) for nickel-cobalt-manganese batteries.

This follows success in producing P-CAM products, whose specifications mirror those of major electric vehicle battery manufacturers, with nickel, cobalt and manganese sourced exclusively from Sconi ore.

Australian Mines believes this presents an opportunity for significantly more attractive margins and prices compared to selling nickel and cobalt sulphates or the early-stage intermediate mixed sulphate/hydroxide precipitate (MSP/MHP).

It has announced plans to start a scoping study into the economics of incorporating a P-CAM production facility as part of the Sconi project in the coming quarter.

“We have already successfully (and repeatedly) produced independently certified battery-grade cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate crystals for supply to potential offtake partners and high purity scandium oxide for supply to our R&D partners,” managing director Benjamin Bell said.

“It was recognised, though, that the Sconi project’s specific composition of nickel, cobalt and manganese could support the production of higher value precursor cathode active material (P-CAM) from a single source.

“Preliminary work by Australian Mines suggest that the process of producing high value P-CAM can be easily integrated in the proposed processing flowsheet for the Sconi production plant.

“As such, further production runs of P-CAM are planned for 2021 as interest in this product from industry participants and potential offtake partners intensifies”.

Any P-CAM production facility would replace the nickel and cobalt sulphate circuit in the planned processing plant, rather rather than being in addition to that circuit.

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