Australia’s new Critical Minerals Strategy 2023–2030 is positioned as a “…framework to grow its critical minerals sector”.
It sets out three visions for 2030, specifically that Australia has grown the geostrategic and economic benefits of its critical minerals sector; that it is a globally significant producer of raw and processed critical minerals; and that it supports diverse, resilient, and sustainable supply chains.
Its objectives are to create diverse, resilient, and sustainable supply chains through strong and secure international partnerships; build sovereign capability in critical minerals processing; use critical minerals to help become a renewable energy superpower; and extract more value onshore from resources, creating jobs and economic opportunity, including for regional and First Nations communities.
Some of these objectives will be easier to achieve than others. For those related to the development of international supply chains and creating jobs, there are already strong foundations to build on. Australia is already a mining powerhouse and has already developed strong supply chains via various international partnerships. Furthermore, the mining sector is already a major employer, accounting for >2% of jobs in Australia according to government statistics – although of course this can be improved.
The development of more downstream capacity, value capture and renewable energy will be more challenging. Australia exports much of the materials it produces and, as the strategy correctly notes, while its minerals endowment provides a foot in the door, there is more to do to grow its downstream capabilities in areas of competitive advantage by enabling more processing and refining of minerals onshore in Australia, and realise the benefits derived from value-adding to its resources.
Meanwhile, becoming a renewable energy superpower is well within Australia’s reach – but reaching its legislated targets of 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 and net zero by 2050 will still be a challenge. More than 35% of Australia’s electricity last year was supplied by wind and solar, up from just under 17% in 2017. In Tasmania, renewables supplied an impressive 99.1% of electricity while in NSW, the figure was 71.5%. Other states saw renewables account for less than a third of supply.
However, fossil fuels still account for two-thirds of electricity supply in the coal-rich nation and Australia’s renewable energy industry is growing at half the pace needed for the sector to meet the Government’s emissions reduction goals, despite the sector according to the Clean Energy Council.
To meet the objectives of the strategy, the Government has set out priorities across six focus areas, looking to seize its critical minerals opportunity by working with communities, industry, investors, the research and innovation sector, states and territories and international partners.
Source: Project Blue