Rather than simply treating Australia as the world's quarry, successive governments have long talked about further developing the nation a key player in mining technology and downstream processing, and the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Roadmap is the latest strategy, which comes at a time of profound change as materials are sought for 21st century applications such as green energy and batteries.
The government has announced a A$1.3 billion manufacturing initiative, part of a scheme that is also open to the food and drink, medical products, clean energy and recycling, defence, and space technology sectors, to help Australia's already world class resources sector further develop and refine both mining and critical minerals processing technologies to target emerging industry trends and future potential markets.
The aim of the seeding cash splash is to help manufacturers scale-up production, build sophisticated capabilities, commercialise products, and tap into global supply chains
Australia has the critical minerals needed for emerging applications, and the roadmap says it should improve how they are extracted, while also enabling downstream processing for high value products like batteries and solar cells.
Developed over the past few months with stakeholders, such as Austmine, the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, National Energy and Resources Australia and METS Ignited, the roadmap's vision is that Australia become a global centre for commercialising and manufacturing cutting-edge technology products and services for the global resources sector that benefit a range of other industries.
Globally, mining equipment is expected to generate revenue of US$165.8 billion by 2027 with Asia-Pacific becoming the largest market.
Areas of interest include improving ore mapping and geophysical tools, automated trucks, and robotic equipment, and grinding and processing technologies.
In terms of mineral processing, with demand for materials like manganese, lithium, copper, and nickel expected to grow up to 12 times over the next decade, the roadmap aims to position the nation's miners ahead of the demand pinch-point, while also brining projects closer to downstream production, to help diversify global supply chains, but will also generate new high-paying jobs and manufacturing activity across Australia.
"By harnessing the skills and capabilities that drives the strength of our global resources sector, and converting this capability into products and services to benefit both our resources sector and our other priority sectors, we will realise the return on investment into our world leading research sector," METS Ignited CEO Adrian Beer said.
Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said the plan could put "Team Australia" on the global critical minerals map.
"Better planning and seed funding for critical minerals processing will fast-track opportunities to reap the economic and strategic dividend of downstream value-adding," she said.
"The success of the METS sector proves that manufacturing in Australia can and should be efficient, commercially competitive and technologically advanced."
Climate Council spokesperson Nicki Hutley said the funding could be a turning point on the road to a self-reliant mineral manufacturing sector that could allow much-needed jobs transition in regions such as the coal fields of the New South Wales and Queensland, while helping tackle climate change.
"Processing minerals domestically could give Australian manufacturers a major competitive advantage in manufacturing renewable energy technologies, batteries, and electric vehicle parts," Hutley said