Australia and UK sign new agreement on critical minerals

Brandon How

Cooperation on critical minerals processing and value-added manufacturing capabilities between Australia and the United Kingdom will be expanded following the signing of a new Statement of Intent.

The deal comes as the Western Australian government commits $40 million “to accelerate critical minerals discoveries” ahead of its 2023-24 Budget due next month.

Federal resources minister Madeleine King signed the international deal on Tuesday while the UK’s Minister for the Indo Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan was visiting Western Australia.

Resources minister Madeleine King and UK’s Minister for the Indo Pacific Anne-Marie Trevelyan. Image: LinkedIn

Ms King said it supports Australia’s ambition to be “a global supplier of the resources needed for clean-energy technology, such as batteries, electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines”.

“We will work closely with the UK to build resilient, sustainable, and transparent supply chains for critical minerals, which help both the UK and Australia to lower emissions and achieve net zero commitments,” she said.

“The UK has a long history of investment in Australia’s resource development, and I look forward to welcoming UK investment targeted at critical mineral projects at all levels in Australia.”

The statement of intent outlines cooperation to:

  • Increase investment links for critical minerals projects
  • Support sovereign downstream processing and manufacturing capabilities
  • Seek new critical minerals value chains, including through recycling, and create skilled jobs
  • Enhance collaboration on research and development
  • Promote high environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards
  • Encourage the exchange of skills and expertise between Australian and UK firms, and with other international partners.

A similar new Critical Minerals Partnership was signed with the Japanese government last October to secure the critical minerals supply chain, promote research collaboration, and support investment and commercial arrangements.

Australia’s new national critical minerals strategy will be released later this year. Australia produces more than half of the world’s lithium exports, of which almost all comes from Western Australia.

Also on Tuesday, the Western Australian state government announced the $40 million Sustainable Geoscience Investments package to “accelerate critical minerals discoveries”.

This included $4 million for the state government’s Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia to expand research and innovation in net-zero and waste reduction projects.

A further $6.7 million has been earmarked for an Industry Ready Program which will create data analytics packages and sponsor the work of up to three graduates at the Geological Survey of WA.

Ms Trevelyan said “Australia’s unmatched production capacity, combined with the UK’s mineral trading and finance expertise, will boost global supplies, help protect supply chains from future shocks, and support thousands of skilled, high-paying jobs”.

During her trip to Western Australia, Ms Trevelyan met with Alkemy chairman Paul Atherley. The London Stock Exchange listed firm plans to build Australia’s first Lithium Sulphate production facility in Port Hedland, Western Australia, which will be exported to a Lithium Hydroxide plant in the United Kingdom. She also officially opened the British Consulate in Perth.

The Australia-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement will soon come into force as enabling legislation has passed through the UK Parliament. When it comes into force, the UK’s four per cent tariff on Lithium carbonates as well as Lithium oxide and hydroxide will be eliminated.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

Leave a Comment