Australia’s crucial role in critical minerals supply chain

The federal government has reaffirmed its commitment to fast-tracking the exploration, extraction, processing, and value-adding of Australian critical minerals. 

Highlighted in its latest ‘Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus’ is the country’s history as a global leader in resource project development, boasting a highly skilled workforce, robust environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, and a transparent regulatory environment.

The prospectus provides a snapshot of investment opportunities in Australia-based projects and additional information on the critical minerals and strategic materials sector reflective of the dynamic nature of the market.

This snapshot includes updated mineral endowment figures from Geoscience Australia; 52 investment-ready project summaries; an updated developing the midstream section; and a spotlight on lithium, which includes a project pipeline.

top 5 for 22 key global economic resources

Australia is not only a crucial player in the global critical minerals supply chain it is a world leader. According to Geoscience Australia, the nation is top 5 for 22 key global economic resources including cobalt, lithium, manganese, tungsten, and vanadium. 

The nation is the most successful exploration destination and continues to be the most attractive region globally for mining investment. ‘The Luck Country’ also continues to rank first in the world for financial freedom and third for trade freedom.

In 2022, Australia spent more than $4 billion on mineral exploration, an increase of 13% from 2021. Included in the total spend was exploration for minor metals – including critical metals such as lithium and rare earth elements – which increased by 66% to $482.6 million.

To maintain this leading position, the government in October 2023 announced the $2 billion expansion of the Critical Minerals Facility, bringing the total financing available to $4 billion.

The federal government’s $225 million Exploring for the Future program, led by Geoscience Australia, also commits to supporting a strong economy, resilient society, and sustainable environment for the benefit of Australians.

The federal government’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2023-2030 outlines the country’s vision, objectives, and focus areas to seize the opportunities of the clean energy transition. Implementation of the strategy includes increasing support to finance mining and processing projects, while investing in our global partnerships. 

In December 2023, Australia’s Critical Minerals List was updated and a new Strategic Materials List introduced, recognising the importance of certain materials in the global transition to net zero and their broader strategic applications. 

The government publishes a Critical Minerals List consisting of metallic or non-metallic materials essential to modern technologies, economies and national security, and whose supply chains are vulnerable to disruption. 

Critical minerals and strategic materials are essential components of transformative technologies such as electric vehicles, hydrogen electrolysers, solar panels, wind turbines, greener buildings, and batteries.

The list was first identified in 2019 with 24 critical minerals, expanded in 2022 to 26 minerals, and in line with the Critical Minerals Strategy revised in December 2023 to 30 minerals. 

In the latest prospectus, arsenic, fluorine, molybdenum, selenium, and tellurium have made their collective debuts on the critical minerals, while helium has been evicted.

The new Strategic Materials List includes aluminium, copper, nickel, phosphorus, tin, and zinc. Despite not being classed as critical, the prospectus outlines how the government will continue supporting their extraction and processing.

These minerals and materials are crucial as the world transitions to decarbonisation. The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2023 underscores the exponential growth of the critical minerals market, which has doubled in size over the past 5 years. Projections indicate that demand is set to grow between two and fourfold by 2030.

Write to Adam Drought at Mining.com.au

Images: Australian government 
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Written By Adam Drought
Born and raised in the UK, Adam is a sports fanatic with an interest in Rugby League and UFC/MMA. When not training in Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Adam attends Griffith University where he is completing his final year of a Communication & Journalism degree.