A consortium of Hong Kong and European private investors are investing over USD 1 billion to revive a mothballed nickel and cobalt refinery in Australia by turning mining waste into materials for electric car batteries. The refinery, Yabulu, is located in Queensland and aims to become one of the world’s top ten producers of refined nickel within 18 months to benefit from sustained demand and high prices for the metals. The investors also plan to install a 1.5 GW solar farm and energy storage facilities on site to replace a coal-and-natural-gas-fired power generation plant.
The consortium is led by Hong Kong-based businessman Richard Petty, who is one of the nine investors in the group. Most of the investors have decades of experience in the mining, metals and commodities industries. The Switzerland-based entity Zero Carbon Investek (ZCI) reportedly agreed to buy the Yabulu refinery for nearly USD 1.35 billion from tycoon Clive Palmer.
Why it matters
The Yabulu refinery will have the capacity to produce 53,500 tonnes of nickel and 3,700 tonnes of cobalt annually, just from processing tailings. The metals in the tailings are worth “up to USD 10 billion” based on independent valuations commissioned by ZCI. Nickel and cobalt are among the key materials for lithium-ion batteries found in electric vehicles and energy storage systems, and their demand is expected to grow as governments and businesses pursue a transition to clean energy and step up efforts to fight climate change. The refinery will also help reduce dependence on imports and increase the competitiveness of the local economy as well as living standards for citizens.