Commonwealth expands critical mineral funding

AUSTRALIA is throwing its support behind its rare earth and critical minerals potential, with the Commonwealth setting up a specialised Critical Minerals Facilitation Office to help projects access financing and markets, and diversify supply chains.
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New funding will be made available for critical mineral developments.

Haydn Black

Reporter

The nation is one of the top five producers of critical minerals such as antimony, manganese, rare earths, and titanium minerals such as ilmenite and rutile; is the second-largest rare earths producer with 13% of production; and is the world's largest producer of lithium, accounting for 47% of global production
 
It also has the world's largest nickel reserves, second largest cobalt reserves, and abundant reserves of graphite.
 
To aid exploitation of the 24 materials defined by a Commonwealth strategic review earlier this year, the Department of Industry is looking at making funding available through Export Finance Australia, including the Defence Export Facility, as critical minerals are considered essential inputs to defence.
 
The government plans to make changes so funding can be accessed from EFA and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility at the same time.
 
Resources minister Matt Canavan said the increasing global uptake of electric vehicles, smart phones and renewable energy, Australia was well placed to become an "international powerhouse" to supply critical minerals.
 
The government will also commit $4.5 million to fund critical minerals research by key Commonwealth scientific agencies.
 
Lobby groups have welcomed the moves.
 
Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable said the nation was ideally placed to lead the growth, diversity and new applications of critical minerals globally.
 
"Australia has pioneered new advances in extractive technologies and processing ores into metals with a commitment to sustainability, community engagement, rehabilitation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions," Constable said. 
 
Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane boasted Queensland would be at the forefront of the development of Australia's critical minerals, particularly the emerging North West Minerals Province.
 
Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia CEO Paul Everingham heralded the decision as "timely", and said WA could become a major supplier.