With demand for electric vehicles booming around the world and economies rushing to decarbonise, a major new lithium mine has officially opened south of Darwin.
The Finniss Lithium Project, operated by Core Lithium, is the only current lithium mine in Australia outside of Western Australia.
Its opening comes barely a year after construction began, with the company now planning to extract more than a million tonnes of ore each year and export it overseas.
Lithium is a vital component in the batteries used in electric vehicles, as well as home batteries.
Core Lithium chief executive, Gareth Manderson, said the company was confident soaring demand for electric vehicles (EVs) worldwide would sustain the mine over its 12-year life span, with the company having already signed a contract to supply manufacturer Tesla.
"All the forecasts you see are showing that the demand for EVs is only going to increase, and the world needs a lot more spodumene and lithium carbonate mines to meet that demand," he said.
Chairman Greg English said the new mine's proponents were also hoping to leverage its proximity to Asia.
"[This lithium] is similar to a lot of the West Australian products, but with our proximity to Darwin and our proximity to Asia, the logistics chain is so much better than a lot of those projects," he said.
The project is expected to support about 300 jobs, with the first shipment of ore expected to take place in the first half of 2023.
Mining and Industry Minister Nicole Manison said the new mine put the Northern Territory in a good position to provide the minerals needed for the move away from fossil fuels.
"We have to be realistic about that transition – there are materials you absolutely must mine to achieve decarbonisation and tackle climate change head-on, and many of those materials are available here in the Northern Territory," she said.
Expansion plans spark concerns for environment
However, not everyone is thrilled about the opening of the new mine, which is located north of Litchfield National Park.
Some residents of Darwin's rural area are worried by Core Lithium's plans to expand its exploration in the Finniss region.
The company currently has 500 square kilometres of granted tenements and on Monday, Mr English said it was actively exploring nearby mineral deposits.
"At the moment we're having a lot of exploration success in this area, so as that exploration success continues we'll look to permit more mines and to grow the project," he said.
But environmentalist and Humpty Doo resident, Pauline Cass, said some in the region weren't aware of the scale of the plans.
"They're not aware that Core is doing lithium mining across the whole region," she said.
"It's going to pockmark the landscape, which will make that land unusable for any other use in the future."
Ms Manison could not provide specific details of the mine's rehabilitation requirements on Monday, but said there were strict processes in place.
"With every mine it goes through a very stringent and rigorous environmental assessment process," she said.
"We have got a very strict environmental process in place."