Ministers agree to take national approach on critical minerals

Australian governments have united in support of critical minerals, with mineral-rich states and territories agreeing to make the development of the sector a “national priority” following calls from industry to do so.

Resources and mining ministers from Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory committed to “coordinate efforts” at the first ministerial roundtable since 2020 on Friday.

The agreement comes ahead of a new Critical Minerals Strategy, which the federal government is developing to support minerals processing and intellectual property. The strategy is expected to be released later this year.

Federal Resources minister Madeleine King said the agreement is recognition the “critical minerals sector is a national priority which will lead to new economic opportunities, particularly for regional Australia, and will help produce the materials needed to lower emissions”.

A section of the Pilgangoora site. Image: Pilbara Minerals

She said that in the three years since the last ministerial roundtable was convened, the shift to net-zero technologies like electric vehicles and solar panels had seen global demand for Australia’s vast reserves of critical minerals “dramatically” increase.

“The road to global net-zero passes through Australia’s resources industry and our emerging critical minerals sectors,” Minister King said.

At the ministerial roundtable, ministers discussed ways government could support the growth of the critical minerals sector “by ensuring projects are approved in a timely manner” but without discounting the environment.

The importance of developing policies to “encourage investment in critical minerals and processing infrastructure” was also discussed, as was the need for “further efforts in exploration and creating common user infrastructure”, Minister King said.

New South Wales and Victoria were absent from the March roundtable meeting due to the NSW state election and “unavailability”, respectively.

Last month, Gemaker managing director and co-founder Natalie Chapman told that competition between states for foreign investment in critical minerals projects is unhelpful and that national focus was needed.

“Overseas no-one cares if it’s NSW or Queensland – they’re dealing with Australia. The difficulty with projects getting investment in the past is that when you go to overseas credit agencies to try to get financing from them, the first thing they say is ‘how much has Australia put in?’,” she said.

“If the answer is none or that they’ll put in if everyone else puts in first, then internationally they’re looking at a project and thinking, ‘is this country serious about that project?’ ‘Is it a bit dodgy?’ Australia’s thinking has to change – it needs to be about how many… dollars are in there overall.”

Future meetings of the ministerial roundtable are now expected to “foster collaboration, growth and investment” in the critical minerals sector.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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