Latrobe Magnesium Ltd. received approval from the Australian Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to operate its magnesium research, development, and demonstration facility in Hazelwood North, Australia. The demonstration facility will utilize a world-first patented extraction process to produce magnesium metal.
Latrobe has completed a feasibility study on the new process, validating its combined hydromet/thermal reduction process that extracts the metal. Based on this technology, the pilot plant will use 24,000 tonnes per year of industrial fly-ash, a by-product from the Yallourn Power Station (brown coal power), to initially produce 3,000 tpy of magnesium metal.
Within a year of starting production, the company expects to later expand production at the site to 40,000 tonnes per year of magnesium. Latrobe plans to sell the refined magnesium under long-term contracts to customers in Australia, the U.S., and Japan. Currently, Australia imports 100% of the 8,000 tonnes annually consumed.
The company plans to also investigate the reuse of the wastes produced at the magnesium facility, with by-products being used in road construction and the production of steel, as well as agricultural fertilizer, barbecue fuel, and cement. This will require additional approvals from EPA.
Latrobe plans to adopt the principles of an industrial ecology system at the plant. According to company, the project will be beneficial to the environment due to recycling coal power plant waste, avoiding landfilling of by-product, and producing low CO2 emissions.
The EPA approval allows for the construction and operation of the demonstration plant. This is subject to standard conditions covering: the design of the plant; environmental management; sampling/testing and reporting to the EPA; control of noise, stormwater, air quality, odor, and any emissions; prevention of land or groundwater contamination; emergency response plans; and prompt reporting of any non-compliance.
This is the last approval required for the project to proceed. The Latrobe Board will make a final investment decision once it has finalized its funding arrangements. Construction of the plant is proposed to start in March 2021, with commissioning to begin by March 2022.
In addition to the plant in Australia, Latrobe is also working to develop a similar magnesium plant in Germany, which would also use the patented extraction process.