Australian lithium and tantalite mining company Pilbara Minerals and its partner Calix have received a $14m (A$20m) grant to fund the development of the Mid-Stream project.

Awarded by the Australian Government under the Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI), the grant will be used by the partners to develop a demonstration-scale chemicals facility at the project.

Earlier this month, Pilbara Minerals signed a memorandum of understanding with Calix over the Mid-Stream project, which involves the development of the demonstration facility to produce lithium salts utilising renewable energy.

The proposed demonstration facility will be equipped to process fine, lower-grade spodumene concentrate from the Pilgangoora project to create a low-carbon, concentrated lithium salt.

Pilbara Minerals said in a statement: “The objective of the Mid-Stream Project is to deliver a superior ‘value-added’ lithium raw material that outperforms across the key metrics of product cost, quality, carbon energy reduction and waste reduction/handling.”

Located in Western Australia’s resource-rich Pilbara region, the Pilbara Minerals-owned Pilgangoora deposit is said to comprise one of the world’s largest lithium resources.

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Pilbara Minerals managing director and CEO Ken Brinsden said: “The Mid-Stream Project is expected to facilitate waste minimisation in key end-use markets, which decarbonises the hard-rock lithium supply chain and creates competitive ‘value-added’ products that can serve global markets directly.”

Calix managing director Phil Hodgson said: “This world-first project aims to develop a low carbon process for lithium salt production into a rapidly growing market that is increasingly demanding more sustainable practices.

The two companies are planning to sign a formal JV in the third quarter of this year followed by final investment decision on the project in late 2022 or early next year.