Critical minerals in focus in Australia Government’s National Resources Statement

Australia’s Coalition Government has released a “National Resources Statement” as it looks to, it says, attract investment, develop new resources and markets, and share the benefits of success with more regional communities.

The first such statement the government has released for more than 20 years, it includes an agreement to establish a new critical minerals work programme to boost exploration, develop a data strategy to de-risk investment decisions, and build community confidence in the sector, the government said.

“This week, the government announced priority status for funding applications related to critical minerals projects under the A$20 million ($14.2 million) Round 7 of the Cooperative Research Centres Project (CRC-P),” the government said.

The CRC programme supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. It is a model for linking researchers with industry to focus on research and development towards use and commercialisation.

“There is a bright future for the resources sector given the economic growth occurring in our region,” the government said. “By 2030, Asia will produce more than half the world’s economic output, consume 40% of its energy and be home to a middle class of almost 3.5 billion people. Given this growth, and if Australia can maintain its global share of commodity production, at least 24,000 new direct mining jobs could be created, along with the broader prosperity those jobs will bring.”

The government’s vision is to have the world’s most advanced, innovative and successful resources sector, which delivers sustained prosperity and social development for all Australians, it said.

To achieve this outcome, the government will focus on five key priorities:

  • Attracting investment;
  • Developing new resources, industries and markets;
  • Investing in new technologies, especially to improve environmental outcomes;
  • Creating well paid secure jobs, and;
  • Ensuring local communities receive benefits from mining activities.

The government said: “Our work starts now. Some elements will be progressed in collaboration with the states and territories through the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council, given their responsibilities in regulating the resources sector.”

In addition to the critical minerals work, the government will also progress a number of initiatives under the statement including promoting a “national resources brand to market the advantages of Australia as a resources investment destination to the world”, and supporting the development of new resource basins through cooperation with state and territory jurisdictions – similar to the Memorandum of Understanding with the Northern Territory on the development of the Beetaloo Basin.

It will also continue to invest in the “most advanced seismic and aero-magnetic surveys to help discover the next major mineral find through the A$100 million Exploring for the Future programme”, it said, plus improve the consistency and scope of data across the resource sector.

“Our resources sector makes up 8% of our economy and exports are predicted to reach a record A$250 billion in 2018–19. It also employs around 1.1 million people directly and indirectly and is the largest employer of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” the government said.

“These initiatives will help our resources industry deliver even more benefits to Australians.”

The National Resources Statement builds on the recommendations of the Resources 2030 Taskforce commissioned by the government last year, the government said.

The statement comes a day after the Australia Federal Opposition’s commitment to establish an Australian Future Mines Centre to co-ordinate exploration work and lead the scientific research and development necessary to explore under deep cover, funded by a A$23 million Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative.