Western Australian (WA) Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnson has unveiled the members of the ministry’s Future Battery Industry taskforce, which for both ease and amusement I will call the FBI Taskforce.
The FBI Taskforce is a unit made up of mining companies, industry bodies and union groups, with a mandate to help WA’s battery industry meet its potential by exploring local and international pathways to expand WA’s critical minerals industry, minerals such as lithium and cathode active materials (CAM). The unit will particularly focus on supporting projects which could supply rapidly expanding battery cell producers, primarily located in China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan.
As part of its WA Recovery Plan, the WA Government has already committed $13.2 million to its bid to attract a CAM manufacturer to the state, what Minister Johnston called “the next step for the state in the battery value chain.” This is to say, attracting a pre-cursor manufacturer is the next step on the way to battery cell manufacturing, and, in turn, the renewal of the nation’s manufacturing industry.
The newly announced FBI Taskforce includes quite a range of members, including, among others, Albemarle Lithium Pty Ltd, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union, Australian Vanadium Limited, BHP Nickel West, Northern Minerals, Pilbara Minerals, and Tianqi Lithium Australia.
Great to be a part of the Future Battery Industry Taskforce working with @WAGovernment and @BillJohnstonMLA and industry to explore local and global opportunities to grow #WesternAustralia's critical minerals industry https://t.co/u4TyzPCRoC #Pilgangoora #lithium @KenBPilbara pic.twitter.com/wWRmqJeNJR
— PilbaraMinerals (@PilbaraMinerals) November 30, 2020
Minister Johnston said he was excited to announce the FBI Taskforce’s members. “Developing the future battery and critical minerals industry will create jobs and diversify the economy,” said Johnston, “Which is important to support our State’s recovery post-Covid-19.”
Success hinges on sustainability
Despite yesterday’s release of WA’s long-awaited Climate Policy, many were disappointed with its clawless approach to some of the world’s biggest emitters which safely harbour in the state. And yet, the FBI Taskforce acknowledges that one of its priorities has to be the sustainability of WA’s battery industry if it is going to compete internationally.
In the most recent update to the Future Battery Strategy, it is acknowledged that “Purchasers of products containing battery and critical minerals are seeking greater transparency of the environmental, social and governance standards across the supply chain.
Certifying the sustainability of the industry is, therefore, the key to attracting the kind of purchasers the industry needs, companies like Tesla which have committed, at least publicly, to source sustainable minerals for their products. Indeed, Tesla’s inability to source sustainable materials has seen it enter the lithium mining sector itself, and as some commentators have predicted, nickel could be next. That is, if WA cannot corner the market for sustainable energy development minerals.
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