Monday 1st Jun, 2020

Critical minerals could add $9.4B to Australian economy

Australia could become a major global supplier of minerals critical for emerging technologies, according to a new report.

Geoscience Australia in collaboration with RMIT University and Monash University commissioned the Critical Minerals in Australia report which analyses the current state of critical minerals in Australis and highlights areas for future research.

The report’s conservative estimate showed Australia could add around $9.4 billion of value to the nation’s mineral and metal production through the production of four critical commodities – hafnium, niobium, rare earth elements and scandium – from existing mines and favourable deposits.

This is an increase of about eight per cent to Australia’s current value of $112.2 billion in mineral and metal production.

To be classified as critical, a mineral must be economically important to society and vulnerable to supply distribution.

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Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said Australia was well placed to produce significant extra wealth from its extensive mineral resources and mining expertise.

“Australia is already demonstrating it can meet the needs of key trading partners in a range of critical minerals,” Canavan said.

“We are one of the world’s top five producers of antimony, cobalt, lithium and rare earths, minerals rated as ‘critical’ by the US, UK or EU.

“The growing list of new and emerging technologies using critical minerals includes advanced manufacturing and health applications, rechargeable batteries, renewable energy systems and electric cars.”

Canavan said the Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia reaches its potential as a global supplier of critical minerals.

“The Australia’s National Resources Statement released in February 2019 outlined the development of a national strategy through the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council to harness the emerging opportunities offered by the critical minerals sector,” Canavan said.

“We also announced critical minerals projects would be prioritised in the latest industry funding round, which closes on March 28.

“By investing in critical minerals, we’re helping to grow our resources sector, driving the nation’s economy and creating more jobs.

“We’re engaging with our key trading partners on critical minerals. Late last year, I signed a Letter of Intent with my counterpart from the United States agreeing to collaborate on joint activities in the area of critical minerals.”

The report gave credits to Australia’s leading expertise in mining and metallurgical processing as well as extensive mineral resources likely to contain critical minerals. This should provide Australia the opportunity to develop into a “major, transparent and reliable supplier of critical minerals for the global economy”, according to the report.

However, a few key areas that need addressing include insufficient knowledge of critical minerals in Australian deposits, few geological studies dedicated to assessing and facilitating the discovery of critical mineral resources in Australia and the need for new mining technology and services to extract the minerals economically.