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A new business development grants program dedicated to Northern Australia will open to a strategic corridor across the north in early November.

Northern Australia Minister David Littleproud said the Northern Australia Development Program would offer  $111.9 million through two simultaneous grant streams for businesses to support their growth and diversification.

The first stream would target small to medium corporations with business expansion and diversification grants of between $50,000 and $2 million, Mr Littleproud said.

The second stream will offer corporations between $3 million and $10 million to establish a new industry or grow an existing industry.

Federal Member for Leichhardt Warren Entsch said this investment was needed to drive the development of diverse and profitable businesses and create jobs in Northern Australia.

“These grants will help businesses to fund new capital expenditure investments like the construction of infrastructure or assets, or to undertake business planning and feasibility studies,” Mr Entsch said.

“This grants program is another step towards levelling the playing field for businesses in the North.

“Growing existing, emerging, and new industries will also contribute to transformational change and make it a more attractive place to invest and do business.”

Grants will cover up to 50 per cent of an eligible project’s total cost.

The program is expected to open for applications in early November, with grants being awarded in February next year.

The eligibility guidelines will be released at the end of September.

Multicom Resources plans to start construction of its $250 million Saint Elmo vanadium operation next year, paving the way for 250 mine jobs.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Multicom was ‘first cab off the rank’ in an exciting new era for Queensland’s resources sector.

“Vanadium is a new economy mineral that will fuel Queensland’s future as a global resources supplier for decades to come,” she said.

“Vanadium is an important ingredient in the manufacture of specialty steel and will be used in large-scale renewable batteries around the world because it can be charged thousands of times without degrading.”

She said it also laid the foundation for a potential next-level industry in Queensland manufacturing vanadium redox flow batteries.

The Saint Elmo project, east of Julia Creek in North West Queensland, received Federal environmental approval in April.

Ms Palaszczuk, State Resources Minister Scott Stewart and Multicom Resources chief executive officer Shaun McCarthy today jointly announced the go-ahead for the mine.

Mr McCarthy said mine construction was planned to start in 2022, with first production forecast for late 2023.

Saint Elmo is initially forecast to produce up to 5000 tonnes per annum of vanadium pentoxide, supporting at least 150 mine jobs.

Production would ramp up to 20,000 tonnes per annum over time, bringing an additional 100 operational and 150 construction jobs, Mr McCarthy said.

With a mine life of up to 20 years , the project will involve shallow (20m-40m) open-cut strip mining with sequential mining, backfilling and rehabilitation of disturbed areas.

Ore processing will occur on site, with product exported through the Port of Townsville.
“We expect around three-quarters of the workforce to either live in Julia Creek or McKinlay Shire, or to travel from surrounding communities of Cloncurry, Richmond and Mount Isa,” Mr McCarthy said.  

“Multicom will also source our suppliers from the local region as much as possible and is well-supported by the well-established supply chain along the Townsville to Mount Isa corridor.”

The region is the epicentre of Queensland’s vanadium mining potential – with projects in the pipeline including QEM’s Julia Creek vanadium/oil shale project and Vecco Group’s Debella vanadium and HPA (high purity alumina) project.

Horizon Minerals and its Richmond-Julia Creek joint venture partner Richmond Vanadium Technology last month launmched a definitive feasibility study to mine the Lilyvale deposit.

Mr Stewart said the new Saint Elmo mine demonstrated the success of the Palaszczuk Government’s approach to enabling a prosperous resources sector.

“Consistent with our policy of fostering new economy minerals development, the Geological Survey of Queensland is constantly gathering data on the state’s mineral endowment,” Mr Stewart said.

“The Palaszczuk Government makes that pre-competitive data available to explorers free of charge to help de-risk their exploration activity.

“This data gives companies like Multicom the confidence they needed to support investment and a mining lease application.

“The Palaszczuk Government supports the sector with grants funding exploration activity, and vanadium has been a target of that.”

North-West Queensland copper producer Austral Resources expects to start trading on the ASX in November after an IPO due to open on Friday.

The company is developing the new Anthill copper mine north of Mount Isa and operates a heap leach, solvent extraction and electrowinning (SXEW) processing facility at Mount Kelly, part of the Lady Annie operations it purchased from CST Minerals in 2019.

The prospectus lodged indicates a market value of more than $89 million for Austral Resources on completion of the offer, which aims to raise $30 million.

Chairman Phillip Thomas, in his introduction to the prospectus document, describes Austral as an LME-quality copper cathode producing company that is developing a new open-cut mine and also has 1340sq km of highly prospective
exploration tenements.

“While the mine life from the Anthill copper oxide deposit is estimated at four years, successful exploration efforts will allow us to extend this time period,” he states.

“This is an opportunity for investors to invest in a company already producing copper, with significant ore reserves in the Anthill project only 45km away from the Mount Kelly processing facility.”

Mr Thomas said Austral had sales contracts are in place and the price for copper had a positive outlook, based on analyst reports and underlying copper demand building from the global push towards decarbonisation.

“Upon listing of Austral, we will apply the funds to make our capital structure more efficient and commence development of the Anthill project,” he said.

“With a JORC-compliant ore reserve of 5.06Mt at 0.94 per cent copper, Anthill holds 47,500 tonnes of contained copper that is capable of producing 40,000 tonnes of copper cathode over a four-year period.”

There are 150,000,000 shares available at $0.20 each under the IPO, which is due to open on September 17 and close on October 15.

Austral Resources launches $89m float
Far North Queensland tungsten producer EQ Resources has raised $6 million to fast track early works for its Mount Carbine mine expansion.

The company is boosting its mining fleet with $1.7 million worth of machinery, and has announced plans for power and plant upgrades by the end of the year to make the most of soaring tungsten prices.

It comes ahead of the release of the company’s bankable feasibility study for the expansion project, which will see EQ step up its operations to extract tungsten from the site’s 12M-tonne low-grade ore stockpile and restart open-pit mining at Mount Carbine.

The money was raised by issuing two-year convertible notes with a conversion of 6.5 cents per share, a premium of about 45 per cent to the last price of 4.5 cents per share.

“We welcome the support of lenders in the convertible note facility which will allow the company to further increase production of tungsten concentrate at a time of strong prices for this critical metal, and continue to expand the overall resource through further investigation and drilling,” EQ Resources chief executive officer Kevin MacNeill said.

EQ Resources describes the expansion as a logical next step to a 12-month trial mining and test work program performed under a recently completed METS grant project.

This has seen the successful ramp-up of the company’s ore sorting operation to treat the ore stockpile sitting on the surface at Mount Carbine as historical waste rock.

The operation has achieved daily production levels of up to 2.5 tonnes of tungsten concentrate in recent weeks through the Tomra XRT sorter ramp-up and debottlenecking of the gravity plant

To progress towards the already permitted 1MTPA operation, the company is starting early works investments with a power network upgrade as well as doubling its screening and material handling capacity.

“Our mining team has developed a high degree of confidence in the low-grade ore resource after many months of trialling the high-technology ore sorter,” Mr MacNeill said.

“A new $1.7 million mining fleet is currently arriving at site, while the required power and screening upgrades shall be completed by the end of the year – allowing us to take advantage of strengthening tungsten prices which have increased $US75 (30 per cent-plus) per mtu since January 2021.”

The additional mining fleet includes three 50-tonne dump trucks, two front end loaders, one excavator and a dozer.

A revised JORC compliant resource estimate and reserve statement is expected to be released for Mount Carbine within weeks.

The updated resource will include the results from a recent 4074m drill program, which defined the high-grade extension to the historical open pit at Mount Carbine, as well as the geological extension of the Iron Duke Zone.

The company last month reported bonanza-grade tungsten ore intercepts at the mine, with high-grade intercepts in a zone less than 40m below the floor of the existing Andy White open pit.


Bowen Basin coal giant BMA is advancing the approvals for an extension project to push the life of Caval Ridge mine operations out until 2056.

The company aims to extend Horse Pit from about 2025 to allow Caval Ridge to continue to produce coal at a rate of about 15Mtpa – supporting ongoing employment for about 1500 workers.

The proposal’s referral for Federal approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act  has been opened to public comment.

“BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) is seeking approval to extend the Caval Ridge mine within the existing mining lease, to support ongoing operations, jobs and investment in Central Queensland for decades to come,” a company spokesman said.

“BMA has been a proud member of the Bowen Basin for more than 50 years and we will work closely with the community through this process.”

If approved, the extension is projected to extend the mine’s life from the 2030s to the 2050s.

It would involve capital investments averaging about $100 million per annum over the life of the mine for ongoing equipment, site infrastructure and other requirements.

Caval Ridge – about 5km south-west of Moranbah – came online in 2014. It is an open-cut mining operation with infrastructure including a rail spur (Goonyella System), train load-out facility and coal handling and processing plant.

The extension would see continued use of key infrastructure, with no upgrades required to the CHPP.

Works to be undertaken as part of the planned Horse Pit extension would include relocation of some enabling infrastructure such as an earth moving equipment build pad, blasting compound, access roads and powerlines.

It would require development of an out of pit dump and an extension of the haul road to access the proposed dump, including the construction of a bridge over Horse Creek.

The extension would also require construction of two flood levees, relocation of mine water dams and pipelines as mining progresses, expansion of sediment dam capacities and construction of new sediment dams, extra drains, and relocation of the Peak Downs Highway dragline crossing.

The first concrete pours for the foundations of the Rookwood Weir have commenced in what is being hailed as a major construction milestone for the $367.2 million project.

Rookwood Weir is being built on the Fitzroy River 66km south-west of Rockhampton to help increase water security and drive new economic opportunities.

Concrete is being produced at an onsite batch plant for use on the weir’s spillway-monoliths and left abutment.

Sunwater chief executive officer Glenn Stockton said the pours took place at night for temperature control in mass concrete.

“The concrete pours are undertaken in a continuous operation over an 11-hour night shift for about 12 months and we will see the structure take shape over that time,” he said.

“A range of other works for the project were also significantly advanced, including having moved 800,000 cubic m of earthworks, while a coffer dam, which will help divert river flows, and a temporary river crossing are close to completion.

“All of these activities will help enable works to continue when the river height rises with the approaching wet season.”

Central Queensland-based McCosker Contracting was awarded the contract to build the Rookwood Weir with ACCIONA in partnership with GHD and Sunwater.

Local contractors at the Rookwood Weir site include Schwarz Excavations, Avopiling, Thomas Plant Hire, Qwest and Concrete Pumping Queensland.

A workforce of 196 is onsite to deliver the weir. They include 128 Central Queenslanders, with 14 apprentices and trainees.

State Member for Rockhampton Barry O’Rourke said the project team was working hard to keep to the construction timeline following a two-week shutdown last month after a contractor that visited the site tested positive for COVID-19.

“Work is back in full swing on this incredibly important local project and it’s a testament to the commitment of everyone that big strides are being made despite activities being stopped while workers quarantined,” he said.

“This was made possible by the strict safety controls in place onsite that were adhered to by our workforce and overseen by Queensland Health.”

Rookwood Weir is jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland governments, delivered in partnership with Sunwater.

Federal Member for Capricornia Michelle Landry (pictured below) said the Rookwood Weir project would enable the region to grow and prosper into the future.

“The approximately 86,000 megalitres of water Rookwood Weir will make available will underpin agricultural growth and deliver secure, reliable and affordable water across Central Queensland, setting up local industry to succeed,” Ms Landry said.

The first water from Rookwood Weir will be available in 2023, following the full commissioning of the infrastructure.