By Lewis Jackson
SYDNEY, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Australia will provide up to A$250 million ($164.95 million) in long-term financing to support the expansion of a Pilbara Minerals PLS.AX hard rock lithium mine in Western Australia state.
The 10-year debt facility will go toward expanding mining and processing at the Pilgangoora project, which sits on one of the world's largest lithium ore deposits, according to the company's website.
“The global path to net zero runs through the Australian resources sector and producing battery materials is a vital contributor to a lower carbon economy,” resources minister Madeleine King said in a statement.
Roughly 40% of the funds will go to adding 100,000 tons per year of spodumene concentrate production at the miner's Pilgan plant. The remainder will go to replacing a crushing and ore sorting facility and funding future expansions.
The facility consists of two loans -- A$125 million from Export Finance Australia and A$125 million from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). The latter is subject to final approval from the Western Australian state government.
"We look forward to continuing to work with the Australian Government as we pursue our growth and diversification strategy to further realise our ambition to become a fully integrated, sustainable battery materials supplier,” said chief executive Dale Henderson in a statement posted to the stock exchange.
Australia, the world's biggest producer of rare earths outside of China, has been pouring money into diversifying procurement of critical minerals amid souring relations between Western governments and Beijing.
In September the federal government approved A$50 million in grants to six critical minerals projects, including an electric battery grade graphite business.
($1 = 1.5156 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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