Budget to boost critical minerals sector

Measures in the 2022–23 Federal Budget worth more than $250 million will build stronger regions and strengthen Australia’s critical minerals sector to become more globally competitive, according to Minister for Resources Keith Pitt.

The Budget measures include $200 million over five years for the Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative (CMAI) and $50.5 million over three years for a virtual National Critical Minerals Research and Development Centre (NCMRDC).

The CMAI will accelerate the development of Australia’s critical minerals sector by supporting early to mid-stage critical minerals projects that align with the Critical Minerals Strategy to overcome technical and market barriers.

The NCMRDC will build Australian capability in critical minerals processing, target technical bottlenecks in strategic supply chains, and drive breakthrough collaborative research.

“Australia possesses extraordinary reserves of the critical minerals crucial to many industries, including medical equipment production, defence, aerospace, automotive and agritech,” Pitt said.

“Through these Budget measures, we are delivering long-term support to the resources and energy sector, which creates jobs and growth opportunities, especially in regional Australia. That means a stronger economy and a stronger future for regional Australia.

“These new initiatives build on previous Budget measures to help resource companies gain entry to new export markets and unlock vast gas reserves.”

According to the Government, the resources and energy industry already directly employs over 270,000 Australians and export earnings continue to grow despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Government is taking action to grow Australia’s critical minerals sector and expand into downstream processing, positioning Australia at the heart of global supply chains for technologies ranging from mobile phones to fighter jets.

“Australia is responding to global demand for gas and critical minerals with our large reserves, technical expertise and a track record as a reliable and responsible supplier,” Minister Pitt said.

“We have the potential to do so much more and we are taking action to ensure Australia’s critical minerals sector goes from strength to strength.”

The latest Budget measures are in addition to the $294.2 million already committed by the Government to resources and critical minerals jobs and skills through the $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) chief executive officer Tania constable said the strong performance of the mining industry is boosting the broader economy.

“Funding for critical mineral processing projects and initiatives to accelerate other projects will expand Australia’s capacity to meet future global demand for critical minerals, and further enhance Australian mining’s position at the forefront of driving technological advances and lowering global emissions,” she said.

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA (CME) director of policy and advocacy Rob Carruthers said the budget highlighted not just Australia’s strong recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic but the contributions from the WA mining and resources sector which had underpinned that.

“CME welcomes well-targeted initiatives in value-add processing and forward-leaning export growth across iron ore, critical and battery materials, and development hubs for nascent hydrogen and ammonia production from low emissions energy sources,” he said.

“Locking in advancing onshore processing and modern manufacturing opportunities across the supply chain are areas CME continues to advocate for and support.

“There are a range of initiatives, announced both in the lead-up to the budget and tonight, which will be very beneficial for our sector. These include a $1.5 billion investment in the Pilbara that will feature increased mineral processing and a strong focus on investment to create a ‘next-generation export hub’, with an emphasis on low emissions technologies, including renewable energy hydrogen, ammonia, and carbon capture and storage.”

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