Opportunity knocks for magnesium production

An impression of the magnesium plant going ahead in Hazelwood North. image supplied

Michelle Slater

A MAGNESIUM demonstration plant being built in Hazelwood North is planning to up production from 3000 tonnes to 10,000 tonnes a year, to take advantage of opportunities in global markets.

Latrobe Magnesium has existing regulatory approvals to go ahead with an initial 3000 tonne trial plant expected to start production in early 2023.

The company will be spending another $75 million on the plant expansion, taking the total investment to $123 million.

LMG chief executive officer David Paterson said they would have to seek further council and Environmental Protection Authority approvals to upscale production.

“So there is no delay to get the plant up, we will start with 1000 tonnes and then go straight to 10,000 tonnes, but we have approvals for 3000 tonnes,” Mr Paterson said.

“We have to make sure we get the approvals in within the next month, this is something we want to bring forward, this is great for the project as the number of employees in construction will go up.”

LMG has a 10-year supply agreement with EnergyAustralia to create magnesium from Yallourn coal ash, with plans to further expand production to 40,000 tonnes a year if commercially viable.

Local contractor RTL has already been signed on to transport the coal ash from Yallourn to the Tramway Road site.

Mr Paterson said there was already abundant supplies of feedstock laying in Yallourn ash ponds, with 1.5 million tonnes more to be added in the next seven years before the power station shuts.

Mr Paterson said the company was seizing upon global demands as major supplier China was downing its magnesium production, creating an impending worldwide shortage.

He said electric car manufacturers in particular were looking for magnesium to create strong and lightweight components.

Mr Paterson said the plant would begin by operating on gas-power and then move to renewables, in order to meet demands for low-emissions products.

“This is important for our longevity, some car manufacturers have zero emissions targets and these people want parts made from zero emissions products,” he said.

“Magnesium is the metal of the future. If we can get this up, we can compete just as well as anywhere in the world, and we can get other plants to sit around it, we will have the ability to grow other businesses.”