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Australia's potential share of critical minerals investments worth A$20bn/y, report shows

Access to talent is becoming an increasing challenge in Australia.

Access to talent is becoming an increasing challenge in Australia.

22nd November 2023

By: Mariaan Webb

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

     

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To meet the temperature targets of the Paris Agreement necessitates not only the rapid and widespread deployment of clean energy technologies, but also a monumental scaling up of mineral production, says leading miner BHP.

The gravity of the global energy transition becomes apparent when considering an estimated $100-billion a year is required worldwide to boost mineral production.

Citing estimates from the Minerals Council of Australia, BHP reports that up to 140 new copper mines, 60 new nickel mines, 50 new lithium mines and 17 new cobalt mines will be needed by 2030 alone.

If Australia is to increase its production of critical minerals to match its share of global reserves, the country should attract a yearly investment of about A$20-billion in critical minerals, says the mining giant.

That is about double the size of the current pipeline and would be in addition to the tens of billions of dollars of investment that Australia is already set to attract for projects relating to more established commodities, like iron-ore and gold.

In its ‘Recapturing Australia’s Competitiveness’ report, BHP highlights four key pillars that Australia must address to attract its potential share of critical minerals investment. These are: fiscal stability and competitive taxation; robust, transparent and streamlined permitting; best-in-class infrastructure unlocking basins of the future; and a world-class mining equipment, technology and services sector.

The mining company stresses that Australia is suffering from skills shortages and states that the situation will worsen as trends like automation, digitisation and greater downstream processing increase the need for new technical capabilities.

“Access to talent is becoming an increasing challenge in Australia,” BHP says, noting that the sector is facing record vacancy levels, reflecting declining enrolments in mining-related educational programmes and bottlenecks in accessing international employees in areas unable to be filled by Australians.

Regarding the country’s policy environment, BHP notes that Australia’s pro-investment regulations and policies have historically been a strength. It cautions, however, that recent examples of sudden and unilateral changes in tax and royalty regimes in some jurisdictions are putting future Australian investments at risk.

“The increasing complexity of regulations at state and federal levels is leading to longer wait-times for permitting and approvals and industrial relations changes risk creating additional cost pressures, while restricting the ability of industry to improve productivity.

“These investment headwinds are in stark contrast to the many areas where industry and government have worked cooperatively and collaboratively together to deliver better outcomes for Australia’s competitiveness,” it states.

Alongside the four key pillars, the report highlights eight supporting actions, one of which calls for the inclusion of copper and nickel as critical minerals.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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