PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Australian government has unveiled its Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing roadmap, that would leverage Australia’s world-leading critical minerals and resources sector to create more jobs and economic opportunities for manufacturing businesses over the next ten years.
The roadmap shows how businesses can capitalise on Australia’s access to the resources which would be needed to manufacture many new technologies.
Applications under the government’s A$1.3-billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative (MMI) also opened on Thursday to projects in the priority area, to help manufacturers scale-up production, commercialise products and tap into global supply chains.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was focused on continuing to rebuild and grow the economy, with manufacturing playing a key role in the Covid-19 recovery.
“Yesterday’s national accounts showed the comeback of the Australian economy is well underway and manufacturing businesses and jobs will be central to our National Economic Recovery Plan as we build back from the Covid-19 recession,” Morrison said.
“Our A$1.5-billion Modern Manufacturing Strategy is at the heart of our JobMaker plan and its focused on growing our entire manufacturing sector.
“Our Modern Manufacturing Initiative will help position Australia as not just a global leader in the resources sector but also in the manufacturing of the technology used, as well as turning the raw materials into value-added products.
“Today’s funding will help unlock investment from industry to help build manufacturing capability and competitiveness in Australia’s resources sector while taking advantage of a significant global growth sector.
“This investment and this roadmap will support jobs across Australia, particularly in our resource-rich regions like the Hunter Valley, Western Australia and Central Queensland.”
Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews said the new roadmap set out a ten-year vision to build sophisticated manufacturing capability in Australia in the resources sector.
“Opportunities outlined in the roadmap include turning critical minerals into high value products like batteries and solar cells, as well as technologies and equipment that makes mining more efficient and safe,” Andrews said.
“This funding will back businesses to pursue those opportunities and turn innovative ideas into high-value products so we can build on Australia’s competitive advantage and secure greater investment and market share.”
The roadmap has set specific goals, including improved capability to bring products quickly to market by year two, fostering increased collaboration with relevant sectors and international supply chains by year five, and establishing Australia as a regional hub for resources technology and critical mineral processing by year ten.
This roadmap complements the government’s initiatives to reduce electricity prices, boost liquid fuels security and invest in low emissions energy technology through Australia’s Technology Investment roadmap.
Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt said it also complemented government’s Critical Minerals Strategy.
“The government is committed to bringing on new supplies of critical minerals and developing this emerging sector to meet growing global demand,” he said.
“Developing our critical minerals processing capability will ensure Australian companies can move down the value chain, getting greater value out of the products they produce.
"The roadmap also identifies how we can develop our resources technology to maximise efficiencies in our high performing resources sector.
“Our focus on resource technology will also support the development of new ideas to improve mine productivity, process efficiency and safety. As the sector’s productivity grows so does the Australian economy, benefiting all Australians,” Pitt said.
The road maps in the remaining priority areas will be released in coming weeks to coincide with the opening of their respective MMI funding rounds.
The remaining road maps are; Food and Beverage, Recycling and Clean Energy, and Defence.
Initial applications will be limited to the Translation and Integration streams of the MMI, with expressions of interest for the larger Collaboration stream to open in coming months.
Climate Council spokesperson and economist Nicki Hutley said that boosting Australia’s processing capability in rare earths and other critical minerals could add value to the economy and support growth in the manufacturing sector.
“Processing minerals domestically could give Australian manufacturers a major competitive advantage in manufacturing renewable energy technologies, batteries, and electric vehicle parts,” she said.
“It could also drive a much-needed jobs transition in mining regions like the Hunter Valley in New South Wales, central Queensland and Western Australia. These areas already have the natural resources and significant skills and infrastructure, but will need additional investment.
“To help manufacturers be low-carbon as well as competitive, governments must increase the supply of affordable renewable energy to power new minerals processing operations.
“Ultimately, this roadmap is a promising step towards a self-reliant minerals manufacturing sector, the development of technologies that tackle climate change, and a prime position in the global minerals market,” said Hutley.
However, she noted that government’s support for a gas-led recovery instead of a plan to power Australia with clean, affordable renewable energy was a roadblock to its success.
Meanwhile, the Minerals Council of Australia has also welcomed the roadmap, with CEO Tania Constable saying that better planning and seed funding for critical minerals processing will fast-track opportunities to reap the economic and strategic dividend of downstream value-adding.
“Australia’s future success in critical minerals, as with other minerals, will be based on quality resources, homegrown expertise and our nation’s reputation as a reliable, secure and sustainable supplier.
“Putting Team Australia on the global critical minerals map will help attract the investment and technology necessary to meet the growing needs of global supply chains for critical and other minerals for high value products like batteries, solar cells and other innovative and early-stage technologies,” said Constable.
She pointed out that the Australian resources sector had been an incubator of globally competitive industrial and technological innovations that had enabled tens of thousands of Australian businesses to grow and trade a diverse range of goods and services domestically and internationally.
“Most of the 1.1-million jobs directly and indirectly supported by mining and the minerals equipment, technology and services sector are in a diverse array of businesses that have harnessed the skills and technologies in manufacturing, defence industries, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, data analysis and communications.
“The success of the mining equipment, technology and services sector proves that manufacturing in Australia can and should be efficient, commercially competitive and technologically advanced,” Constable said.
The METS sector should be fully integrated into manufacturing industry policy, programmes and related plans and funding for manufacturing technology and innovation. The government should also continue support for bodies that enhance collaboration between the mining and METS sector and research organisations.