Australia unveils plan to capitalize on its natural resources

March 4, 2021

The Australian government unveiled a A$1.3 billion (US$1 billion), 10-year plan to help the nation capitalize on the country’s abundant natural resources and exploit opportunities in a de-carbonizing world.

Australia plans to boost processing and manufacturing as part of a plan to challenge China’s dominance in the supply of products key to the clean-energy transition. The plan encourages growth in high-value products like batteries and solar cells, as well as technologies and equipment that make mining safer and more efficient.

The Modern Manufacturing Initiative comes as the U.S. and Japan look to cut their dependence on China for minerals that are vital to many manufacturing sectors. Australia is the top exporter of lithium, a key component in batteries, and is also a major source of rare earths. Beijing is reviewing its rare earths policy and there are signs it may ban the export of refining technology to nations or firms that it deems are a threat to state security, Bloomberg reported.

“It’s a sovereign and strategic priority for Australia to ensure that we are hard-wired into this supply chain around the world,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a media briefing following the announcement. It has to be “a supply chain that Australia and our partners can rely on, because these rare earths and critical minerals are what pull together the technology that we will be relying on into the future,” he said.

Lynas Rare Earths Ltd. currently sends rare earths from its operations in Australia to Malaysia for processing, but has plans to build a facility close to its Mt. Weld mine in the country’s west. Lynas’ rival Iluka Resources Ltd. is also assessing options to build processing capacity. Energy Renaissance, meanwhile, and other companies are looking to establish a domestic battery manufacturing industry on Australia’s east coast.

 

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