New government office to develop large-scale critical minerals industry

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Less than a week after researchers stressed the necessity of a stable supply of green-tech minerals and metals, the Australian government has opened the new Critical Minerals Facilitation Office (the Office) to support the development and growth of the emerging critical minerals industry. 

The Office’s primary mandate is to work throughout all levels of government, industry, science and research, to help build Australia’s critical mineral resource industry. The aim is to ensure opportunities are taken and downstream industries are prepared to participate and flourish. 

Australia is a world leader in critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, manganese, ilmenite and rutile and is the second-largest producer of rare earths, with 13 per cent of global production. The Office’s establishment is an important checkpoint for Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said Australia’s abundant resources of critical minerals were a crucial component of modern high-technology and clean-energy industries. 

“We have the potential to become an international powerhouse in the supply of critical minerals with increasing demand from rising use of electric cars, renewable energy and smartphones,” Canavan said. 

Australia is in a critical position, not just in terms of its own economic future, but a global future. Researchers at the University of Sussex recently published a paper in Science warning that the global low-carbon revolution could be at risk unless sustainable supplies of rare minerals and metals are attained. Australia can be this sustainable supplier but we are yet to develop an industry at a large-scale. 

“Australia has abundant reserves of critical minerals and rare earths” continued Canavan, “and the Government is committed to developing world-leading projects which improve diversity of supply in the global-markets.” 

The Critical Minerals Facilitation Office is being headed by Jessica Robinson, a former senior official in Treasury, Prime Minister and Cabinet, Robinson has experience in the development of critical minerals and foreign investment policy. Robinson’s first task will be to host a series of stakeholder roundtable meetings throughout the country. 

“The Office,” said Robinson in a statement, “is here to position Australia globally as a secure and reliable supplier of critical minerals…I want to join all the different parts of the sector together, from research and development in universities, to pilot and full-scale projects on the ground, to promoting business opportunities in supply chains both here in Australia and overseas.” 

The Office was first announced back in November as part of talks in which the United States (U.S.) and Australia formalised a partnership on the development of critical mineral supply chains. This partnership is set to be developed further after meetings in Washington D.C. this coming February. Australia is also pursuing partnerships with Japan, India, and European nations.