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Australian Strategic Materials Korean JV partner gains US$4.5 million for clean metals R&D

ZironTech has received grant funding for the development of a low-emission, high-purity metal refining technology that can be applied to zirconium, titanium, rare earths for permanent magnet alloys.

Alkane Resources Ltd - Australian Strategic Materials Korean JV partner gains US$4.5 million for clean metals R&D
Parent company Alkane Resources is working towards listing ASM on the ASX

Australian Strategic Materials Limited’s (ASM) Korean research & development partner has been awarded US$4.5 million to develop a low-emission, high-purity metal refining technology that can be applied to zirconium, titanium and rare earths for permanent magnet alloys.

The grants were awarded to Zirconium Technology Corporation (ZironTech) as part of the Korean Government’s US$5 billion Industrial Technological Program.

This program, led by the Korean Ministry of Industry, Trade and Resources, seeks to establish clean metal supply independence and advance material technology for future market demand.

Joint venture with ASM

Development of this technology is occurring in JV with ASM which has the exclusive rights to the commercialisation of the technology worldwide.

It is intended to replace conventional energy-intensive metallisation processes with a more environmentally friendly, sustainable and cost-effective alternative.

Australian Strategic Materials managing director David Woodall said: “We are pleased that both ASM and the technology we are developing in partnership with ZironTech has been recognised by the Korean Government as critical in its journey to ensuring sovereign supply for critical materials.”

Demerger plans

ASM is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alkane Resources Ltd (ASX:ALK), which intends to demerge ASM as a separate listed company subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.

This listing is anticipated to occur in mid-July 2020, providing investors with opportunities to grow value in ASM as a critical materials business leveraged to the changing world economy.

Commissioning pilot plant

The JV between ASM and ZironTech is finalising the commissioning of a commercial pilot plant facility in South Korea to produce these high-purity metals in parallel with developing the design for the world’s first commercial-scale metal plant.

This will help meet the growing demand for a new source into domestic and global markets for ASM’s range of high-purity and value-added critical metals.

These include zirconium, rare earth magnet metals (praseodymium and neodymium), niobium and hafnium.

The JV pilot plant is in the final stage of construction and production is expected in mid-2020.

Developing Dubbo Project

ASM is progressing the development of the Dubbo Project in Central West NSW, an advanced polymetallic project with large in-ground resource of zirconium, rare earth elements (including yttrium), niobium, and hafnium.

This polymetallic project represents a strategic and independent supply of critical minerals for a range of sustainable technologies and future industries.

The Dubbo Project is development-ready, subject to financing, with the deposit and surrounding land acquired, all major State and Federal approvals in place and extensive piloting and engineering completed.

Adding value

Woodall added: “The technology to produce critical metals adds value to our project and is key to the growth of Korea’s and Australia’s new technology and manufacturing sectors, with the strong government focus on increasing domestic production to secure supply stability.”

In March, the Australian Government-owned Export Finance Australia (EFA) confirmed interest in assisting with financing the Dubbo Project, stating it closely aligns with the recently announced initiative by the Australian Government to develop its ‘Critical Minerals’ sector.

ASM’s investment in downstream processing will improve the economics of its Dubbo Project as well as giving it involvement in the wider commercialisation of breakthrough technology.

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