Australia builds focus on becoming critical minerals powerhouse

Simon Birmingham and Matt Canavan. Image: Simon Birmingham

The Australian Government is prioritising the development of the nation’s position as a global supplier of rare earths and high performance metals.

Financial support will be offered for critical minerals projects that the government deems eligible.

The funding will be available through Export Finance Australia (EFA), including the Defence Export Facility. The government will also give access to dual funding, through the EFA as well as the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

Federal Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said the new arrangements meant Australian companies would be able to maximise their access to existing government support to expedite new rare earth and critical mineral processing activities in Australia.

“We are determined to develop our rare earth and critical mineral assets for the benefit of Australia and our technology-driven industries,” Canavan said.

“By allowing proponents to secure financing through both EFA and the NAIF, we are enhancing opportunities for our critical mineral sector. This opens up new opportunities in trade and manufacturing, creating jobs of the future for thousands of Australians.”

Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham said the EFA would now place a greater focus on critical minerals projects and related infrastructure, including projects that supply defence end-use applications.

The government will also establish a specialised Critical Minerals Facilitation Office starting January 1 next year. The office will be used to help proponents secure funding and market access for projects.

Further, the government will release $4.5 million in funding for critical minerals research by Commonwealth scientific agencies.

“With the increasing global uptake of electric vehicles, smart phones and renewable energy, Australia is well placed to become an international powerhouse to supply critical minerals, and the government is committed to developing world-leading projects which could help supply global markets,” Canavan said.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said Australia offered a stable and secure supply chain and world-leading mining practices that were better for the environment compared with competitor countries.

“Australia has pioneered new advances in extractive technologies and processing ores into metals with a commitment to sustainability, community engagement, rehabilitation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” she said.

“So the country is ideally placed to lead the growth, diversity and new applications of critical minerals globally.”

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane also welcomed the Australian Government’s announcement, expressing his confidence that Queensland would be at the forefront of this critical minerals development.

“Our rich resources state of Queensland has significant reserves of key critical minerals including battery-related minerals,” Macfarlane said.

“We have 13 per cent of Australia’s economic demonstrated resources of copper, 3 per cent of nickel, 6 per cent of zinc, 18 per cent of graphite, along with 70 per cent of molybdenum and significant identified deposits of cobalt, rhenium, scandium, tantalum, niobium, lithium, rare earths and vanadium.

“What’s more, the resources are identified thanks in large part to the $100 million Exploring for the Future program, which will make the area between Tennant Creek and Mount Isa one of the best mapped parts of Earth.”

Both Macfarlane and Constable will also be joining Canavan’s Australian critical minerals delegation to Washington next week to develop the United States-Australia trading partnership.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.