Australian critical minerals industry can flourish with increased Government support
Australia’s critical minerals industry requires more than just ambition, and reliance on Australia’s historical ‘lucky country’ success rate, to achieve the objectives of the Queensland and Federal Government Critical Mineral Strategies, says global law firm DLA Piper.
“Government, industry and the community recognise that Australia must harness the growth of the critical mineral industry in the national interest and as part of Australia’s contribution to global efforts to decarbonise so it’s important that we get the policy settings right,” said Brisbane-based Alexander Samson, Partner, DLA Piper.
”Without the right policies we risk missing out on this generational opportunity to leverage our globally significant endowment of critical minerals and reposition Australia in the global critical minerals value chain. Getting that right will significantly benefit the Australian economy over the long term,” Alex said.
Alex said the recently launched Queensland Critical Minerals Strategy provides some good incentives to support the growth of the Queensland industry, such as the development of Critical Mineral Zones and funding through the $100 million Critical Minerals and Battery Technology Fund, but lacked the boldness industry participants were seeking.
“To ensure Australian critical minerals projects remain competitive and viable, we think an increase in Australian government support is required to ensure greenfields projects can undertake the necessary development work to establish feasibility, and to satisfy the capital requirements of advanced development and operating projects who are facing high capex and opex costs (further impacted by the current interest rate environment).
“Ultimately, growing the industry, whether it is upstream extraction or downstream mineral processing within Australia requires a substantial increase in foreign investment and collaboration, as domestic government funding programs, while heading in the right direction, are not currently sufficient to ensure the feasibility of Australian critical minerals projects,” he added.
“The US Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is widely seen as a potential mechanism to provide further support to Australia’s critical minerals industry. We are actively helping clients explore structures that seek to enable them to access IRA funding and to navigate the myriad of funding available through the various US government departments, which is complex.
“Even with the right funding, Australia will never be the most cost-competitive jurisdiction. The existence of an ESG positive pit-to-end product, such as an electric vehicle containing only inputs that have been mined, refined and manufactured in processes and jurisdictions that champion ESG values is yet to come to market. However, we are working with international clients that believe this is where the market is headed and are seeking to invest in Australia now in order to establish a foothold in access to minerals that will satisfy the expected premium end of their product offering in the supply chain.
“Ultimately, attracting investment in both upstream and downstream projects will require a multi-faceted approach on policy and bold ambition,” he added.