Minerals strategy critical to success

Australia’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2019 maps out a vision for Australia as a world leader in exploration, extraction, production and the processing of critical minerals.

The report says rare earth elements and other critical minerals are important because of their “unique catalytic, metallurgical, nuclear, electrical, magnetic, and luminescent properties” and they are used in the manufacture of mobile phones and computers, flat-screen monitors, wind turbines, electric cars, solar panels, rechargeable batteries, defence industry technology and products, and many other high-tech applications.

Australia has the world’s third largest reserves of lithium and is sixth in the world for rare earth elements and has large resources of cobalt, manganese, tantalum, tungsten, and zirconium, yet many of these deposits remain untapped .

Cobalt is used in high-wear applications including superalloys for jet engines; magnets; carbides; and diamond tools and also used in batteries, catalysts and pigments.

In 2017, global cobalt production had a market value of almost US$542 million; with a 68% increase in world cobalt consumption forecast between 2015 and 2025. The Democratic Republic of the Congo produces 58.2% of the world’s 110,000 tonne annual production. In 2017, Australia only produced 4971 tonnes, despite holding the world’s second largest cobalt lode.

The new strategy aims to promote investment into Australia’s critical minerals sector, provide incentives for innovation, and connect current and pipeline critical minerals projects with infrastructure development.

Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said there were significant economic opportunities for Australia as global demand for critical minerals grew.