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The Queensland Government is providing a financial leg-up for the  $1.4 billion Sconi cobalt-nickel-scandium project in North Queensland.

The amount involved remains confidential and it comes with a range of conditions, including that Sconi developer Australian Mines completes construction by July 2023.

The State financial support package comes after the Queensland Government last year granted Sconi ‘prescribed project’ status to streamline the approvals process.

Australian Mines has successfully completed production runs of battery-grade cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate with ore from Sconi, near Greenvale.

The project will feature a 2Mtpa ore processing plant producing an estimated 7000 tonnes of cobalt sulphate and 46,800 tonnes of nickel sulphate per year over the mine’s initial 30-year life.

“Having the opportunity to access state funding for Sconi sends a strong message about the quality of the project and Australian Mines’ ability to progress its development, despite the broader economic uncertainty being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” managing director Benjamin Bell said.

He said the terms and timeframes set out as conditions of the government funding aligned with Australian Mines’ expectations.

They include that it secure an offtake agreement by September this year for 100 per cent of the cobalt sulphate and nickel sulphate to be produced and that it reach final investment decision in December.

It must also employ at least 191 people in Queensland in full-time ongoing roles by June 30, 2024.

“We are making good progress in seeking to secure the offtake and financing agreements needed to access this funding,” Mr Bell said.

“The development of Sconi would provide significant economic, employment and infrastructure benefits to Greenvale and Northern Queensland for, at least, the next three decades.”

The government funding will come through the $175 million Jobs and Regional Growth Fund managed by the Department of State Development, Tourism and Innovation.

Member for Townsville Scott Stewart said the wider North Queensland region would benefit from the project, which is expected to support an estimated 500 jobs over a two-year construction period and create 289 long-term positions once fully operational.

“Not only do you have the jobs at the mine site, you have all the supply chain opportunities,” Mr Stewart said.

“The Greenvale community and its local economy and further down the pipeline to Townsville will see an estimated increase in Gross Regional Product by $2.2 billion over the life of the mine.

“That’s important for local manufacturers and local manufacturing jobs.”

Another critical minerals project received a government boost today, with a Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) loan approved to develop one of the world’s largest minerals sands project in Western Australia.

A NAIF loan of up to $150 million has been approved for the Strandline Resources, Coburn heavy mineral sands project, north of Geraldton.

Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said the project was expected to benefit the local region to the tune of $922 million over 25 years and could create up to 315 jobs during the construction phase and up to 190 jobs during the operations phase.

As global demand for critical minerals that underpin the world’s advanced technologies continues to grow, Mr Pitt said the government was committed to supporting projects across the sector’s supply chain.