In June this year the Australian Government released its Critical Minerals Strategy for the period to 2030. In this guest article, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) sets out what this means for Australia’s mining and downstream critical materials and industries development, and how Austrade can help you build a reliable critical raw materials supply chain.
In June 2023, the Australian Government released its Critical Minerals Strategy 2023-2030. The Strategy functions as a framework for the Australian Government’s work in the critical minerals sector and promises a renewed focus on how the sector develops through till 2030.
The Strategy is crucial in underscoring the Australian Government’s ongoing commitment to supporting the nation’s critical minerals industry, as well as in providing investors with an understanding of how they can engage with the market.
Given Australia’s role as a secure and sustainable supplier of critical minerals to the international community, the Strategy is an indispensable resource for investors and offtakers looking to participate in the international growth of the critical minerals industry.
An established leader in mining investment, innovation and ESG
Australia is a world leading mining jurisdiction with a mature mining industry and deep expertise in resource extraction and processing.
According to the Fraser Institutes’ Annual Survey of Mining Companies 2022, Australia is considered the most attractive region in the world for mining investment. It offers potential investors and offtakers a stable business environment, transparent regulatory frameworks and a government committed to supporting critical minerals projects.
As a secure supplier of resources with an unparalleled critical minerals endowment, highly skilled workforce, cutting-edge innovation and research and a world-leading approach to ESG, Australia is an obvious partner of choice.
Accelerating to net zero across industry
The critical minerals industry is a significant source of growth potential for the nation.
The Strategy explains the Australian Government’s role in fostering this growth through till 2030. This involves taking coordinated action in support of the sector, aligning the Strategy with other Government initiatives that seek to establish Australia as a hub for renewable energy and net zero industries, including:
- National Hydrogen Strategy
- National Reconstruction Fund
- First Nations Clean Energy Strategy
- Australian Made Battery Plan
- National Electric Vehicle Strategy
- Powering Australia Plan
Six focus areas identified to drive policy decisions
The objectives of the Critical Minerals Strategy 2023-2030 are to:
- Create diverse, resilient, and sustainable supply chains through strong and secure international partnerships.
- Build sovereign capability in critical minerals processing.
- Use Australia’s critical minerals to help become a renewable energy superpower.
- Extract more value onshore from our resources – creating jobs and economic opportunity, including for regional and First Nations communities.
To achieve its objectives, the Strategy includes six focus areas that will define the direction of future policy decisions:
1. Developing strategically important projects
Australia’s Critical Minerals List includes 26 critical minerals that are essential to our modern technologies, economies and national security, and whose supply chains are vulnerable to disruption.
The Australian Government supports strategically important projects that will produce these critical minerals through policies, incentives and dedicated funding, such as:
Loans, guarantees and equity investments, through bodies such as Export Finance Australia, the A$7 billion Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation. The Government has requested that NAIF earmark A$500 million to support projects that align with the Strategy.
The A$2 billion Critical Minerals Facility, supporting strategically important projects through loans.
The National Reconstruction Fund, with A$1 billion for value-adding in resources, and A$3 billion for renewables and low emissions technologies.
The Junior Minerals Exploration Incentive, for encouraging small minerals exploration companies to seek out greenfield mineral exploration opportunities.
Government-industry collaboration vehicles, such as the Future Battery Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), and the MinEx CRC.
2. Attracting investment and building international partnerships
Australia will continue to work with like-minded partners to develop consistent and mutually beneficial regulatory frameworks, and lead discussions surrounding supply chains, standards, and strategic issues.
This government-to-government engagement, and the assistance of government bodies such as the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) will build investor confidence and help private sector partnerships develop and scale up quickly.
3. First Nations engagement and benefit sharing
The benefits to be gained from the growth of Australia’s critical minerals sector must be shared with and driven by the strengths and aspirations of the First Nations communities in which projects take place.
Nationally the mining industry is an important employer of First Nations Australians, particularly in regional and remote communities. The growth of the critical minerals sector must provide opportunities for First Nations communities now and into the future.
4. Promoting Australia as a world leader in ESG performance
Australia has some of the world’s strongest ESG performance across indicators including political stability and absence of violence and terrorism, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, voice and accountability, rule of law and control of corruption.
Australia will apply the highest ESG standards and practices relevant to critical minerals to guide investment decisions.
Part of this will be the Australian Government’s legislated commitment to a 43% reduction in emissions by 2030, and net zero by 2050. There is a further target of 82% renewable energy penetration in the electricity grid by 2030. Australia’s plans for common user infrastructure – discussed below will unlock renewable energy for critical minerals project proponents.
To minimise the time, effort and resources required on the part of project proponents to maintain these standards, all levels of government will work to streamline the relevant regulations, remove unnecessary duplication and lower risk and uncertainty of environmental and planning approvals.
5. Unlocking investment in enabling infrastructure and services
The Government will encourage the development of industrial hubs surrounding common user infrastructure. It will also use other infrastructure frameworks to connect critical minerals deposits to key utilities and transport, with consideration given to strengthening rural and remote areas.
6. Growing a skilled workforce
Critical minerals mining and processing are complex operations in remote locations that need highly skilled workers and technicians in a range of fields. The Australian Government will employ a multi-pronged strategy to reduce barriers to employment and ensure a diverse workforce; drawing upon the Employment White Paper and the Migration Strategy to effectively utilise skilled migration.
How Austrade can help you
The Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) is the Australian Government’s lead trade and investment facilitation agency.
It contributes to the Australian Critical Minerals Strategy by facilitating commercial connections between Australian critical minerals companies and international investors and offtakers.
Austrade’s three principal focus areas are:
- Offtake agreements for (and investment and potential equity in) Australian critical minerals projects to accelerate their development.
- Foreign investment in downstream processing and value-chain creation.
- Foreign investment in greenfield critical minerals opportunities.
Across international markets, Austrade has staff working with investors and offtakers to facilitate these connections. Austrade also utilises its wider network, with the organisation’s work and expertise including other sectors such as defence, renewable energy and advanced manufacturing to support wider development of the critical minerals industry in Australia.
An important element of Austrade’s engagement with critical mineral projet proponents, international investors, and government stakeholders are the outbound missions. In 2022, Austrade facilitated outbound mission to Japan, Korea, France, Germany and the United cKingdom. Collectively, 16 Australian companies participated in these missions.
Accompanied by representatives of Austrade’s critical minerals team from Australia and the respective markets, these project proponents met with international investors, off-takers, materials processors, OEMs and end-users.
Austrade also annually publishes the Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus which features Australian projects that are seeking investment or offtake agreements — a fantastic opportunity for international investors and customers. The fourth edition, released in December 2022, profiled 55 critical minerals projects that were at the Pre-Feasibility Stage of development, or beyond.
The fifth edition is currently under development.
Contact Brian Hyland, Austrade’s Senior Business Development Manager for the UK & Ireland, to learn how your business can access Australia’s critical minerals projects and pipeline. Email email@example.com