“We’ll dig them up right here. We’ll refine them right here. We’ll look to make the products that use them right here,” was the call from Prime Minister Scott Morrison this week as the Federal Government announced a $243 million cash splash across key critical minerals projects while adding silicon and high-purity alumina to the list.
Silicon is refined from high-purity silica sand and has myriad applications across the high-tech space including semiconductors, computer microchips and photovoltaics.
Silica sand is also a foundation of modern cities – it is the main component of all glass and concrete. It is the world’s second-most consumed resource after water and global supplies are fast being depleted. The Critical Minerals Strategy said the silica sand market was forecast to grow from $US7 billion in 2018 to $US20 billion by 2024.
The addition of silicon to the list was the second piece of good news this week for investors in Western Australia silica sand company VRX Silica (ASX: VRX).
After many months, VRX’s Environmental Scoping Document (ESD) for the Arrowsmith North silica sand project 270km north of Perth was signed off by the WA Environmental Protection Authority to provide the company the clarity needed to complete the approvals process. VRX wants to begin construction at Arrowsmith North next January.
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ESD approval was a significant achievement in its own right. Importantly, the accompanying confirmation of the indicative process timetable has provided much-needed clarity for VRX on the environmental approvals timeline.
VRX told investors this week it could now schedule key development activities for Arrowsmith North such as financing, capital investment – particularly for long-lead items – and construction planning.
VRX has already completed process engineering, site geotechnical works and bore installations while detailed engineering for fabrication is underway.
VRX managing director Bruce Maluish said the next step was to submit the Environmental Review Document, with a draft well advanced.
“EPA approval of our Environmental Scoping Document is the culmination of many months of hard work by both VRX and the EPA and we look forward to continued collaboration as we progress the development of the Arrowsmith North silica sand project,” he said.
“Based on the indicative timetable now available to the Company, VRX expects to begin Arrowsmith North’s six-month construction period in January 2023.”
VRX’s shares closed the week up 6% at 17c.