Renewables could revolutionise production of metals

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The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has announced $490,000 in funding to mining and metals company Element 25 Limited (E25) for a first of it’s kind project.

E25 will test the extent to which renewable energy solutions such as wind and solar could be used to power the electrowinning processes in the production of Electrolytic Manganese Metal (EMM) without reducing the quality of the product.

The process traditionally relies on grid connected power sources that can provide a steady and continuous flow of energy, but Electrowinning, an upgrading process, uses an electric current which passes through a metal salt solution, causing the metal to be deposited in an electroplating process. Manganese is used in the creation of specialty steel but also can be used in the creation of lithium ion batteries.

“Australia is currently the third largest producer of manganese ore and if the project shows that renewables are a viable option, it could help to revolutionise the way metals are produced,” ARENA CEO Darren Miller said.

E25 will investigate the impact on the electrowinning process utilising high levels of variable energy supply from wind and solar, requiring the process to respond dynamically to the changes in generation being output.

The project will involve lab scale tests to assess how EMM responds to variable renewable energy, field studies to collect solar and wind resources and a pilot study to examine how EMM production will respond to actual solar and wind data collected in a full scale test.

The study will be part of E25’s Butcherbird development, Australia’s largest onshore manganese resource to be located 130 km south of Newman, Western Australia. Pre-feasibility studies are being carried out for the project.

“ARENA is helping to grow the potential of renewables providing viable alternatives to traditional methods through funding the demonstration of integrating new and emerging technologies.”

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