Taxpayer loan for Australia’s first refinery highlights size of the prize for successful explorers. Plus, last week’s column on DGO-De Grey proves very timely, Calidus re-rates and Sovereign’s monster find yet to be appreciated.

The Federal Government’s $1.2 billion in soft loan support for Iluka’s (ILU) Eneabba rare earths refinery project highlights just how seriously Australia and the rest of the Western world are taking the challenge of reducing China’s dominance in the supply of the strategic metals. Apart from China’s current dominance of the industry, there is the need to increase supplies to see through the world’s decarbonisation challenge, with rare earths of one type or another critical to the technologies that can make a greener world happen.

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Government money without strings attached always sounds too good to be true but it could be the next Australian mining company share price driver, just as the big picture of the global economy darkens.

Iluka Resources, a titanium minerals and zircon producer, led the way this week to the government cash trough, securing a $1.27 billion loan from the Australian Government for its earth refinery in WA. Other government funding deals are expected to flow over the next few weeks, according to Iluka’s chief executive, Tom O’Leary, as pressure grows in the western world to counter China’s control of critical minerals and the Ukraine war threatens trade flows.

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Raleigh Finlayson started looking for his next venture in Australian gold mining around the same time his peers were declaring the sector to be out of vogue (reports The Australian Financial Review).

It was August 2021 when industry talisman Bill Beament publicly lamented gold’s lack of relevance for the decarbonisation trend, while Evolution Mining chairman Jake Klein said investors’ focus on decarbonisation had left gold in “the doghouse”.

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Hot consumer demand for larger ceramic tiles in new kitchens and bathrooms combined with a government scramble to secure “critical minerals” is driving minerals sands prices to levels not seen in at least a decade,

says the developer of one of the world’s largest projects under construction (reports The Australian Financial Review). Strandline Resources revealed on Friday that its mining contractor, Mine Site Construction Services, was preparing to start pre-production operations at its Coburn mineral sands project north of Geraldton in Western Australia in May, a few months before originally planned.

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Strandline Resources has raised A$50 million in a strongly supported placement to institutional, professional and sophisticated investors (reports MiningNews).

About 116.3 million new shares will be issued at 43c each, a 3.6% discount to the 10-day volume-weighted average price. Shaw and Partners and Morgans Corporate acted as joint lead managers and bookrunners to the placement with Euroz Hartleys acting as co-lead manager. "The strong demand for the placement, led by institutional investors, reflected the quality of Strandline's mineral sands growth portfolio and enables the company to capitalise further on the growing global demand for critical minerals products," Strandline managing director Luke Graham said.

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Developer Bellevue Gold expects to be able to beat rising costs as it develops its flagship mine in Western Australia’s Goldfields (reports MiningNews).

Strong drilling results outside the reserve is expected to result in an upgrade to the project's 1 million ounce reserve this quarter. New results included a standout 2.1m at 42.8 grams per tonne gold from 411.6m, including 0.6m at 142gpt gold at the Deacon North lode. The reserve update will also include a project review to take into account favourable results of project optimisation studies and advanced commercial discussions with contractors and suppliers.

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Calidus Resources A$106 million Warrawoona project in the Pilbara remains on track for first gold within weeks (reports MiningNews).

Commissioning of the plant started in late February and the company reported today that the semi-autogenous mill was ready for commissioning. The first ore should be fed through the mill by the end of the month, with first gold to be poured about two weeks later. "Commissioning of the plant by EPC contractor GR Engineering is now well advanced with the SAG mill, the single largest and most complex piece of equipment ready to go," Calidus managing director Dave Reeves said.

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson ramped up plans to build new nuclear power stations and offshore wind farms as he seeks to shore up the UK’s energy supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (reports Bloomberg).

Prime Minister Boris Johnson ramped up plans to build new nuclear power stations and offshore wind farms as he seeks to shore up the UK’s energy supplies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (reports Bloomberg). The premier’s energy security strategy targets a tripling of installed nuclear power capacity by 2050 and accelerates plans to install offshore wind farms this decade. The document also includes more ambitious targets on hydrogen, solar power and measures to spur North Sea oil and gas projects.

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