North Queensland to house Australia’s first critical minerals plant


A $75 million Australian-first critical minerals demonstration plant is underway in Townsville, Queensland, unlocking the state’s next mining and manufacturing boom. 

To be located at Cleveland Bay Industrial Park between the existing Sun Metal zinc refinery and Glencore Copper refinery, the critical minerals plant is expected to process vanadium— a key component of large-scale batteries— along with a range of critical minerals, like cobalt and rare earth elements. 

“The opportunities in North Queensland include mining and processing the minerals for vanadium, zinc-bromine and iron flow batteries, cobalt and nickel used in lithium-ion batteries, high-purity alumina for LEDs, batteries and semiconductors, rare earth elements used in electronics and silicon for solar panels and semiconductors,” said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk

The facility, which is now worth more than seven times the original investment, will prove the commerciality of critical minerals in Queensland, opening job opportunities not just in mining but in processing and manufacturing, Palaszczuk said during her visit to the Sun Metals green industrial precinct. 


North Queensland provided copper during the second industrial revolution to transport electricity and now stands at the centre of the clean energy industrial revolution, the minister said. 

“Critical minerals are needed to build the SuperGrid, batteries and the wind and solar farms under the Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan,” Palaszczuk added. 

Member for Thuringowa Aaron Harper commended the new facility underway, highlighting the great potential to develop even more of a critical minerals industry in North Queensland. 

Investment opportunities for North Queensland include becoming a global supplier of vanadium and manufacturer of flow batteries, as well as the delivery of cobalt and nickel precursors for lithium batteries used in electric cars. 

Aside from being a significant part of a $150 million commitment announced in the 2022-2023 State Budget Update in December 2022, the facility is also a key action under the Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan. 

It is also in line with the $62 billion Queensland Energy and Jobs Plan and the state’s transition efforts towards delivering clean, reliable, and affordable energy to provide power for generations. 

The critical minerals plant is expected to commence operations by the first half of 2025.