Australia

First lithium mine in NT a step closer

The first lithium mine in the Northern Territory is a step closer after the environment watchdog gave qualified backing to the project.

The Northern Territory environment watchdog has recommended approving the territory's first lithium mine, creating more than 100 jobs and capitalising on the need for the resource in batteries.

Australian share market-listed Core Lithium wants to develop a mine and processing plant for its flagship Finnis project, located within an hour's drive of Darwin's port.

The NT Environment Protection Authority backed letting the project go ahead, as long as it implemented its 17 recommendations aimed at protecting a 768ha area's flora, fauna and water quality.

Primary Industry and Resources Minister Paul Kirby is responsible for final approval, but the Labor government has repeatedly stated its support for the mining industry as it tries to boost the NT's struggling economy.

The current mine's life is three to four years but plans are afoot to extend that period, with the NT Government granting a 20-year mineral lease to Core.

Lithium is used for lithium ion batteries in electric vehicles and energy storages and has enjoyed a boom in recent years, including a number of mines opening in Western Australia.

The EPA's biggest worry concerned the company's mine closure plan, including the rehabilitation of the site and mine dam.

Mining would not be approved until the plan was improved, it said.

"Core Lithium Limited must further evaluate all closure and rehabilitation options in developing and finalising its Mine Closure Plan prior to mining commencing with particular attention on achieving rigorous mine closure objectives," EPA acting chairperson Janice van Reyk said.

"While there is potential for significant environmental impacts to develop over the life of the project, the NT EPA considers that there are acceptable solutions to manage such impacts and uncertainties should they arise during or post-mining."

Canadian business Lithium Royalty recently agreed to invest $8.1 million in the project in exchange for 2.5 per cent royalties over production.

The company hopes to be producing lithium by next year, which would make it the first Australian lithium producer outside of WA.

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