PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian resources sector, including its coal and gas sectors, had a significant role to play in the nation’s decarbonising efforts, federal Resources Minister Madeleine King said.
Speaking at the Queensland Resources Media Club, in Brisbane, King said that traditional resources would help underpin Australia’s transition to a net-zero economy.
“The transition to a lower emissions economy will see significant changes to our energy mix over the coming decades. This is absolutely needed to set Australia, and the world, firmly on the path to net zero.
“It’s why we’ve committed to lifting the ambition of Australia’s 2030 target, and legislating Australia’s 2030 and 2050 net-zero targets. Our target of 43% emissions reductions by 2030 is a huge step-up in Australia’s ambition. It’s almost double the previous government’s target,” King said.
“On the road to achieve these ambitious targets, we see the resources sector as part of the solution, not as part of the problem.
“Australia’s resources sector has the means and the motivation to deploy the technologies at scale to reach net zero. Mass deployment of renewables, carbon capture and storage, fleets of battery- and hydrogen-powered mining vehicles will all help drive down the cost of clean energy technologies and make them more accessible.”
King said that Australia’s coal and gas projects would keep the lights on, the workshops operating and homes warm while the country made the most sweeping set of changes to its energy grid the country had ever seen.
“Australia’s copper, metallurgical coal, iron-ore, aluminium, tin, zinc, nickel, cobalt, lithium, gold, silver and rare earths are crucial to the wires, batteries, magnets and semiconductors that power clean energy technologies.
“Without Australia’s resources sector, the world doesn’t have net zero,” she added.
King noted that in Queensland, coal and gas continue to support a significant portion of local jobs, as well as supporting Australia’s energy needs and providing reliable energy for the country's trading partners.
“And let’s not overlook the role traditional energy resources play in providing enormous benefit to the wider community. Their economic and social contribution to many regional areas of the country is significant.
“The coal mining sector, for instance, has made a crucial contribution to the development of Australia’s resources industry. And it continues to do so. The sector provides jobs, energy security, royalties and makes an essential economic contribution to many regional areas, especially right here in Queensland.
“The coal industry paid over A$10-billion in royalties to state governments in the 2021/22 financial year, including an estimated A$7.3-billion in Queensland.
“These royalties ensure a fair return to the Australian people for the development of our coal resources and allow investment in crucial infrastructure such roads, hospitals and schools.”
The Minister said that in the 2021 financial year, the nation’s coal industry provided more than 50 000 direct jobs for Australians across the country.
“Australian coal also plays a key role in meeting the energy needs of the region.
The industry exported over 350-million tonnes, worth over A$100-billion in the last financial year. This is only the second export commodity, after iron-ore, to reach this export milestone,” she said.
King pointed to International Energy Agency modelling which shows demand for Australian coal from developing economies is projected to increase over the next decade to satisfy demand for electricity and industrial development.
“Australia is a long-term, reliable energy supplier and I assure you the Australian government is committed to being a stable and secure destination for investment. I am committed to a consultative approach when considering reforms that impact the sector.
“Governments need to manage the transition carefully. That’s where the traditional resources sector comes into play again.
“The coal and gas sectors will ensure secure and affordable energy supplies as economies make the move to clean energy sources as quickly as possible. The government understands that natural gas is the ally of renewable energy and will support the addition of more intermittent energy sources.”
King said that the federal government would take ''whatever steps were needed'' to avoid a gas shortage in Australia, and would work to balance meeting domestic energy needs with liquefied natural gas (LNG) producer’s contractual obligations.
“We want to work with gas and LNG producers in Australia to secure industry-led solutions,” she said.
King said that the federal government was also committed to working with the governments of the states and territories, who were responsible for regulating gas supply in their respective jurisdictions, and used the address to call on the Queensland government to consider releasing even more acreage under its domestic gas reservation condition.
“Ultimately, the best solution to the tight domestic and international gas markets is to boost supply. The Queensland gas industry is doing the heavy lifting to ensure there is adequate supply in the two most populous states in the nation. I know that the Queensland gas industry is working hard to boost supply, while supply elsewhere is in rapid decline.”
Meanwhile King noted that Australia’s critical minerals supply would increasingly play a major role in the world’s transition to renewable energy, and would underpin nearly every key technology which will support the transition.
“Global demand for these minerals is rapidly accelerating, driven by global decarbonisation efforts, and growth in demand for electronic, communication and military technologies. In fact, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts a doubling of minerals required for clean energy technologies globally by 2040.
“In particular, the relative demand for growth is particularly high in battery-related minerals,” said King.
She pointed out that electric vehicles and battery storage would account for about half of the mineral demand growth from clean energy technologies over the next two decades, with the IEA predicting that to meet all the decarbonisation and electric vehicle ambitions of national governments, a further 60 lithium mines will be required by 2030.
“The demand for lithium is also reflected in the astonishing growth of lithium prices which, according to Bloomberg, averaged over $4 650/t in July 2022, a more than sevenfold increase compared to average prices over 2019.
“With this growth in mind, we find ourselves in an enviable position. Australia boasts some of the richest deposits of critical mineral reserves in the world.
“For instance, we have the world’s largest resources of rutile, zircon and tantalum. And our resources of critical minerals like antimony, cobalt, lithium, manganese ore, niobium, tungsten and vanadium, rank in the top five globally. This presents us with an unmissable opportunity,” King said.
“Our critical minerals sector has the potential to make a major contribution to meeting and diversifying major global supply chains. This will expand our export base, especially to regional and remote areas of the country, including here in Queensland.
“That’s why the government is positioning Australia to be a world leader in exploration, extraction, production and processing of critical minerals.
“We have countless opportunities, not only because of our significant resources reserves, but also due to a number of highly prospective projects that can leverage our mining equipment, technology and services expertise and talent. We also have some of the most robust environmental and labour practices in the world, producing world-class sustainable resources.
“This provides a point of difference and a competitive edge for our resource producers. We will work to showcase these credentials to our trading partners to ensure Australia is a supplier of choice because of its ethically produced and sustainable resources,” King added.