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Closer alliance needed for critical minerals development - Minister

23rd February 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Government and industry would need to work together to bring forward a new wave of investment to advance Australia’s critical minerals sector, federal Resources Minister Madeleine King said this week.

Speaking in Perth, King noted that Australia’s critical minerals major project pipeline increased to 81 projects from 71 in 2021, with an estimated value of A$30-billion to A$42-billion.

King said that more than half of these projects are located in Western Australia, including 11 lithium, three high-purity alumina and nine nickel/cobalt projects. There are also 33 projects covering other commodities, including graphite, rare earths and vanadium oxide.

Together these projects have a combined value of more than A$22-billion.

“Australia's critical minerals will also play an important role in the security of our international partners in our shared, net zero future. This will be done by establishing new sources of supply and diversifying supply chains in concentrated markets.

“We have to work with like-minded economies to invest in our critical minerals development and address supply chain challenges,” she said.

King said that the Australian government also wanted to help create the capability for Australian projects to be involved in more of the downstream processing stages.

“This is consistent with our plan to build manufacturing capability across industry sectors. We want the nation to reap the benefits of providing more value to what we produce.

And the market is moving to capture these opportunities.

“This is especially evident in the lithium sector, with three lithium hydroxide processing plants currently in operation, construction or advanced planning in Western Australia

In the rare earths sector, we are also moving to capture more of the value-added processing stages.

“Australia is currently only involved in mining and beneficiation stages of the lengthy and complex rare earths supply chain. But projects like Lynas’ Kalgoorlie project and Hastings’ Yangibana project are working to capture the next stage of cracking and leaching onshore.

Lynas Rare Earths’ new facility in Kalgoorlie will process concentrate from its Mt Weld mine and will help cement its status as one of the largest integrated rare earths facilities in the world.

“This will provide an important alternate to its plant in Malaysia which is likely to stop cracking and leaching.”

She noted that ASX-listed Iluka Resources Eneabba's rare earths refinery project underway north of Perth would also assist Australia to move further downstream to the production of rare earth oxides.

“This project has received approval for a A$1.25-billion loan through the Australian government’s Critical Minerals Facility. Once operational it will be Australia’s first fully integrated rare earth oxide refinery.

“The government is making substantial investments to develop Australia’s critical minerals sector and value-added capacity. In the October Budget we ensured A$100-million was available over three years for competitive grants to support early and mid-stage projects through the Critical Minerals Development Program.

“We are also investing A$50.5-million over four years for an Australian critical minerals research and development hub to help unlock our nation’s critical minerals potential. To help ensure we have the right policy settings in place, the government is also developing a new Critical Minerals Strategy.

“The strategy will reflect national objectives to accelerate the development of the sector and position Australia as a clean energy superpower. Aims include creating economic opportunities, including for regional Australia and First Nations Peoples; developing new sovereign capabilities and industries; and building reliable, competitive and diverse supply chains."

“We are aware of the magnitude of the challenge ahead to extract and refine these valuable minerals. But we will work closely with the sector to make sure that we are successful in this vital national mission,” King said.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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