The federal government has begun consulting on its $200 million critical minerals accelerator program, which will provide matched grants to Australian companies.
The Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative was announced in March as a part of the $250 million set aside in the federal budget 2022-23 for the critical minerals sector. The Industry Department program will be run over five years and is targeting investment and job creation in regional Australia.
According to the draft guidelines, grants received can be up to 50 per cent of the eligible expenditure of a project but cannot be awarded to projects that already receive Commonwealth funding or are shorter than 12 months. The draft guidelines estimate that most grants awarded will be in the range $1 million and $30 million.
The department is now asking stakeholders to identify the benefits and challenges presented by accessing this program, and the appropriateness of eligibility criteria. Feedback on the initiative opened on April 6 and will close on May 6.
The draft guidelines also state that eligible critical minerals producing projects must be in the early to mid-stages of development. Grant applicants will be assessed by a committee comprised of government representatives and independent experts, or one group exclusively, with advice then given to the Minister for Resources and Water.
Along with demonstrating being able to deliver the proposed critical minerals project, applicants will need to outline how the project contributes to sovereign capability and underpins a new supply chain of strategic relevance to Australia.
This includes how the project may be of interest to Australia’s international partners, namely the United States, Japan, South Korea, India, the United Kingdom, and the members of the European Union.
The remaining $50 million set aside in the federal budget 2022-23 for the critical minerals sectors is going towards the establishment of a virtual Critical Minerals Research and Development Centre over three years. Participating organisations include CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
Federal support for the critical minerals sector is being guided by the Critical Minerals Strategy which was released in March and builds on the original 2019 strategy. In the recent federal budget, the government committed $2 billion to critical minerals projects through a 10-year loan facility, of which $1.25 billion was pledged to Perth-based Iluka Resources on 4 April.
Support for the critical minerals sector has also come out of the government’s $1.3 billion Modern Manufacturing Initiative. In March, four grants totalling $143 million were made in support of critical minerals and rare earth processing projects.
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