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Queensland Pacific Metals is doubling the scale of its planned Townsville battery chemicals plant, with construction due to start next year.

The company has 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.

The plant will produce nickel sulfate, cobalt sulfate, high purity alumina and other by-products. 

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

Agreements with potential offtakers LG Chem and Samsung SDI first prompted the company to consider increasing plant throughput from the planned 0.6M wet tpa.

The smaller scale operation was expected to cost $554 million to bring online and employ about 130 people in operational roles and approximately 1000 during construction.

Queensland Pacific Metals said the plant design remained a single leaching train flowsheet despite the scale-up and so construction time would be unaffected by the doubling of production capacity.

Scale-up will boost project economics

The company said the increase in size would bring economies of scale, which would improve the capital efficiency and project economics of the TECH project.

“We continue to clear obstacles and create value-add opportunities,” chief executive officer Stephen Grocott said.

“The work over the last few months has created an even more attractive and optimal development path.

“We look forward to undertaking the DFS and putting together the required commercial arrangements that we need to make the TECH Project a reality.

“2021 is shaping up as a busy and exciting year for QPM and its

QPM has an ore supply agreement with two operations in New Caledonia for for 0.6M wet tpa over a 10 year period.

The company said it had been assessing additional ore supply opportunities, including from its own Sewa Bay project in Papua New Guinea, and was confident it could enough to feed the larger scale TECH project.

And an MOU signed with Port of Townsville helped pave the way for the upgrade, confirming capacity for ore imports and product exports to support the larger project.

In a statement confirming the plant scale-up, QPM also said it was confident of procuring the higher levels of gas and power required for the larger scale project.

“The increased level of consumption may improve supply opportunities for QPM as it becomes a bigger baseload customer,” the company said.

“Because of process flowsheet improvements, water consumption is likely to reduce compared with the PFS estimate, despite the increased scale.

“Other opportunities such as on-site co-generation of power and steam, which is a required input for the processing plant, may now be financially attractive and will be explored as part of the DFS.”