Tianqi Lithium Kwinana - Image credit Gary Peters Photography

The Critical Minerals Office hosted two virtual information sessions about the Critical Minerals Development Program on 25 January and 1 February.

The information sessions covered many topics including:

  • policy context
  • eligibility
  • available funding
  • grant assessment
  • how to apply.

Participants had the opportunity to ask questions about the program.

We've made minor edits to the recording of this information session recorded on 25 January to ensure the information in the video and transcript accurately reflects the program guidelines.

Applicants should consult the Critical Minerals Development Program guidelines on business.gov.au.  

Please contact us if you have any concerns. 


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Critical Minerals Development Program (CMDP)

Critical Minerals Development Program grants support early and mid-stage critical minerals projects. The current round will provide up to $50 million over 3 years for competitive grants to support early and mid-stage critical minerals projects.

The Critical Minerals Development Program will:  

  • help grow Australia’s Critical Minerals industry
  • support Australia’s transition to net zero emissions
  • support economic development and jobs in regional communities.

Businesses and state or territory governments can apply for a co-funded grant of up to $30 million.

Grants can be used for feasibility studies, engineering design work, and building pilot or demonstration facilities amongst other activities.

Watch the video recording

Andrew Hutchinson: Hello, everybody. Andrew Hutchinson here from the Critical Minerals Office in the Commonwealth Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Andrew Hutchinson: The objective of this session for the next hour is just to share some background and context on the Critical Minerals Development Program. Some details about how the program will run out, including all of the really important nuts and bolts like eligibility and sort of assessment processes, and then to take of course as many questions as we have time for.

Andrew Hutchinson: The session today will be recorded. I might just get Brett actually to roll over to the next slide if that's alright.

Andrew Hutchinson: We'll record the session so that you can review it and hold us to account if we said something silly and seek clarification. We're very happy for people to raise their hand at the end of the kind of pushing out information session and ask questions or throughout the chat, feel free to fire questions through the chat function and our team will be kind of monitoring those and bring them up.

Andrew Hutchinson: Depending on how good a job we do on covering off on the information that you need, we may or may not have a chance to get through all of the questions, we'll try and leave a lot of time but if we don't, don't worry, please continue to submit your questions through this chat or through the inbox, details of which I'm sure no doubt are somewhere in this slide and we will respond to everyone who is registered with a broadcast kind of answer to the question so that there's a fair and level playing field across all participants.

Andrew Hutchinson: And we've also got a phone number there for further inquiries and you can see my details, Susan's details and Brett Colmer's details as the key kind of people. Just on who can talk to what things I'm probably only useful to give context. I don't actually know anything. If you want someone who knows things, then you would need to talk to Susan or Brett who are able to help you with the kind of the detailed inquiries that you'll have. I'll probably keep myself a little bit separate from that process, but again, use the call line or the e-mail address. Thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: So might roll on to just a bit of an outline of what we're going to try and cover in the next 30 minutes or so, and we will try and be quick. I'll give a little bit of context which will help hopefully with framing proposals that you might choose to supply under this program and give a bit of an overview of some of the details. Brett will then take off with things like the timing eligibility, stuff like that.

Andrew Hutchinson: Susan can talk a little bit to assessment and how to apply, and then we'll go to questions at the end.

Andrew Hutchinson: So rolling onto the first slide.

Andrew Hutchinson: Really appreciate the healthy interest here. 99 plus participants is a great outcome. Of course, that's going to mean quite a lot of assessing at our end, but that is a good thing. The genesis of this program really is firmly grounded in the Government's Critical Minerals Strategy. Obviously, Minister King, as the Minister with responsibility for critical minerals, has flagged she wants to update that strategy. But for the time being, the strategy that is on foot is the one that will guide this grants program. You can see up there that there are three objectives that we have. I won't read them out. They're pretty clear.

Andrew Hutchinson: And so obviously we are looking for project proposals that most closely adhere to those objectives or help Australia advance down that path.

Andrew Hutchinson: We would call those strategically important projects. Basically those objectives in one way or another will factor through to the assessment of the grants.

Andrew Hutchinson:  We're interested in projects that are between post exploration and pre-FID that require further funding. We'll talk a little bit more about the logic of that. There's also no doubt detailed questions around. Hang on, I'm post exploration, but I'm still doing some drilling. Does that knock me in or out or, well I'm taking FID on this part but not on this part. Does that knock me in or out? I'm really happy to take some of those questions. But also if we run out of time, we can respond in writing with that, those are issues that we've looked at through the previous round of this program, under the previous government, which was called the Accelerator Initiative.

Andrew Hutchinson:  I think those are kind of the key things.

Andrew Hutchinson:  Assessment criteria one of the grant guidelines you'll see links really closely to this. We're interested in projects and programs and projects rather that'll help secure investment and commercial offtake arrangements for Australian projects to increase the diversity and supply of critical minerals and support secure robust supply chains. What does that mean? If your project is looking to basically sell into existing highly concentrated supply chains that you're not going to be supporting new diverse market entrants or new kind of capabilities both here onshore and overseas, then it is of a lower strategic priority for the Government.

Andrew Hutchinson: Reason being that highly established concentrated supply chains have kind of got a pretty slick operation going at the moment. There's no real need for this Australian Government to be tipping money into support that. However, if projects are trying to do something brave and go out there and work to make a market, that's where we're really interested in in playing ball.

Andrew Hutchinson: Countries that we are particularly interested in there are those kind of like minded allies and partners of Australia, including, but not necessarily limited to the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, the European Union and its Member States and the UK. So that's the diversity piece, the capture value onshore really translates through into the guidelines in terms of growing our capability to capture more of the value chain by expanding our knowledge of critical minerals and moving into downstream processing.

Andrew Hutchinson: So again, if your project is a dig and ship project, to use a crass term, and there's very little value added onshore or perhaps it's only sort of you know primary flotation and then stuff goes overseas, it will be considered less strategically important than a project that is trying to do something a little bit bold in a commercially, you know, sensible and sustainable way and capture that additional value onshore.

Andrew Hutchinson: You'll note that I'm talking in terms of more or less strategic interest, not hard eligibility requirements, so you know, the more you lean into these, the more highly the project will score, but it won't rule you in or out necessarily. The final one is around supporting economic development and jobs in regional communities.

Andrew Hutchinson: If your project is looking to do great things for the local community in terms of creating opportunity, if you're working with the First Nations Australians, if you've got, you know a real commitment to driving kind of local participation opportunities and content, all that sort of stuff, then things will be viewed very favourably. That is a relative score, a small project creating a small number of jobs in a small community is still having a big impact in that community. A bigger project with a big number of jobs, but perhaps in a larger community, you know, it might be, you know what I mean? Don't think just because your total number of jobs is small that your impact is small. We take a more nuanced view of that.

Andrew Hutchinson: So yeah, that kind of goes, I guess, to the policy context and what we mean by strategic alignment, if we can roll to the next slide, please, Brett.

Andrew Hutchinson: Thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: Why are we doing a grants program of this nature? We did a stock take of all- of the different policy supports in place across government and some of the risky parts of the, I guess the product- the project lifecycle rather, and it's pretty clear that in that early to mid-stage development process where you're doing a whole bunch of pre-feasibility work, you may be doing some lab scale of pilot scale testing, the beginning of that offtake qualification journey, that is a very risky challenging stage for all these projects, particularly where they're being advanced by junior proponents. And so government assistance at that point can potentially be a useful thing.

Andrew Hutchinson: You know, we're offering small amounts of grant funding here. Brett will talk through the details, but you know we're not into the hundreds of millions of dollars at the sort of finance stage we're into the ones and 10s of millions of dollars. It's as a grant. We're looking to fund up to 50% of the investment and no more than that. So we're really trying to reduce that capital burden and take some of the risk out of the project. But fundamentally it's still a risk sharing proposal as opposed to the government taking on all of that risk.

Andrew Hutchinson: We're looking for projects that are seeking to do something new, that are seeking to, where we can change the way the project rolls out and capture more of that strategic value. It would be really good for all of your proposals to be able to talk about the counterfactual. If we receive this funding we can add a new circuit, or we can come up with a new product line, or we can refine our processing technology and commercialise that, or we will expand into this market instead of that market.

Andrew Hutchinson: If you can really paint us a picture of what, what will this funding achieve that is different from what would otherwise have happened, and you can align it to those 3 strategic objectives then that really makes our assessment job very much easier and makes the value proposition of the project really clear. I might just pause there and check in with my team, particularly Brett and Susan as to whether there's anything else in this space that should be covered before I throw to you, Brett.

Brett Colmer: I think that's it, Andrew. Happy to move on to the next slide.

Andrew Hutchinson: Beautiful thanks. Before we do that, Susan, comfortable?

Susan King: Yes, perfect. Thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: Awesome. I'll stop talking now to the relief, no doubt, of all and hand over to Brett.

Brett Colmer: Perfect. So the next few slides include some key information straight out of the guidelines. So these slides will be made available afterwards. And just to allow enough time for questions at the end, I'll just note some of the key points. So applications close on the 20th of February, there's up to $50 million available in the program. The maximum grant amount is $30 million.

Brett Colmer: Grants will be for up to 50% of eligible project costs. Cash contributions from your project cannot be made-up from funding from other Commonwealth grants, so the guidelines will be a little bit more specific about that. And finally, the project period is up to 21 months and must be completed by March 2025.

Brett Colmer: So the eligibility criteria is pretty standard eligible projects under this program are very broad as Andrew was mentioning before.

Brett Colmer: States and territories are also eligible and joint applications are also acceptable, provided there is a lead organisation.

Brett Colmer: If your application passes the eligibility assessment a merit assessment will then be undertaken.

Brett Colmer: We consider all eligible applications on the merits based on how well it meets the criteria, how it compares to other applications and whether it provides value with relevant money.

Brett Colmer: There are three assessment criteria. All must be addressed in the application, how your project aligns with the program.

Brett Colmer: Capacity, capability and the resources for the project and the impact that the grant funding will make on your project.

Brett Colmer: Finally, the department will establish an assessment committee comprised of government representatives to assess applications. The committee will assess an application against assessment criteria and compare it with other eligible projects, taking into account program objectives before making recommendations on which projects to fund. The committee will then make a recommendation to the Minister, who is the decision maker.

Brett Colmer: In the event you are not successful, you can take feedback on your application after the outcomes have been approved and announced. I'll just hand over now to you now, Susan, who will talk a bit more about how to apply.

Susan King: Thanks Brett.

Susan King: So I'm not sure how familiar everybody is with our grants portal at the Department of Industry, but you can only submit an application through the grants portal. So we suggest that what you do is you make sure that you have an authorised representative from the entity that's applying for the grant or the lead partner, and that you, as early as possible, go on to the portal, make sure you have an account open and then start completing the application form.

Susan King: The application forms are going to close on the 20th of February, but that doesn't prevent you from completing the application form and submitting it beforehand. And what we really do ask is that your conscious of what time zone that you're in, because once we hit 5:00 PM, Australian Eastern Daylight Saving time, the portal will close and you will not be able to submit. And because it's a computer - there's no arguing or doing anything with it. It's basically just closed.

Susan King: So we encourage you to get started as soon as possible. Note that there are size limitations, so if you have any queries or any difficulties with submitting your applications, what we suggest is that you ring the 132846 number.

Susan King: Get assistance from them in the 1st place. If they can't resolve your problem then it'll come through to a specialist area that will make sure that your application is able to be accepted, but you need to have already started and at least tried to lodge before the close off time so there's virtually no exceptions apart from technical difficulties for not having an application submitted by that time.

Susan King: I think just the next slide please, Brett.

Susan King: So the number one resource that you should always refer to is the guidelines. There's also a sample grant agreement available for you to have a look at what a grant agreement looks like, but the program guidelines will contain all of the information that Brett's gone through earlier. And it also includes quite a lot of detail about the assessment criteria and how those points are allocated to the three assessment criteria that he showed on that slide, so we ask that you ensure that every one of the compulsory documents is attached to your application as well before you submit it.

Susan King: And if we did need to contact you after the applications were closed for further information, you're not actually allowed to provide any further information for your application, just say if you'd missed a document or something.

Susan King: The team that's going to manage this, they're located all across Australia, so if you reach out to us at any time, we'll do our absolute best to get back to you as soon as we can and to collate all the queries, etcetera, and get back to you with some answers and also share those questions and answers on the website so that everybody knows.

Susan King: And I see- that's kind of it from me, but I'm just having a look, Andrew, that I think we've got a lot of questions coming through.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yes, we do. It's excellent.

Andrew Hutchinson: What I suggest we maybe do is go through for all those online if you might need to put up with a little bit of cross chat between Brett myself and Susan to answer some of the questions. If we can't give you a definitive answer right now, we will put out a written response to everyone who was registered for this session.

Andrew Hutchinson: But there are some we can easily answer now, and there are some that might be a little more challenging. Susan and Brett, are you happy if we do that?

Susan King: Yep. And I think one of the first questions is about the other government funding source. That's been posted by John.

Susan King: What the object of this program is, is that you can't be doing activities that say the same identical activities are funded by a different Commonwealth grants program. You can have other people funding different parts of the project, but you basically can't dip into two different buckets to fund the identical activities.

Susan King: And then I think the next question I can answer as well is, are Aboriginal owned entities eligible to apply? Yes.

Susan King: That's an easy one.

Andrew Hutchinson: Is it worth just making some broader comments, Susan, on, you know what kind of entities are eligible to apply more broadly cause the rules have changed a little bit since the last time we did this, and we're now able to take, for example, I believe state owned, you know, or state led projects, for example.

Susan King: That's right. So previously state governments weren't able to be a lead partner on a project, so they're allowed to be now a lead partner on a project. You also have to have an ABN and ACN.

Susan King: You can't be income tax exempt. You must be registered for GST.

Susan King: And you'll find when you go into the portal and start progressing with your application. If you can't answer the eligibility criteria, it will basically stop you and block you from going further.

Susan King: I think maybe the next one might be for you, Andrew, it's from-

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah, and I'm happy to do that, but actually I'll be cheeky and ask you questions, so.

Andrew Hutchinson: Where a project lead elite project proponent fulfills those criteria. That's great, ABN, ACN and all that kind of stuff.

Andrew Hutchinson: If they wish to partner with other agencies, other organisations as well, I believe they can choose a broader range of partners. We will of course be very interested in who those partners are given the purposes of this grant process, but you know, bottom line is in the unlikely circumstance that you or one of your partners feels that they may not be eligible, please reach out to us and test your specific circumstance.

Andrew Hutchinson: If you are not eligible, you may perhaps be able to form some sort of a consortium or partner or subcontract with a different lead proponent who can lead the bid. But again, if we're in that space, I suggest we're probably best off dealing with those sorts of questions directly.

Andrew Hutchinson: So the next question from Pamela is a feasibility study, an eligible activity as long as it is completed within the 21 months? Subject to Brett and Susan shutting me down I'm going to say yes. Feasibility studies are definitely within scope of what we're trying to support here. We understand they can be painful and expensive and challenging and risky. And so you know some grant funding to assist with that it is good.

Andrew Hutchinson: Where you might struggle a little bit is if your feasibility study is already committed to, for example, and well underway and you're looking to recoup some of the costs of that feasibility study work that's already undertaken, we would be looking quite carefully at that because there might be that additionality consideration, like the grant is now not actually funding some new work, it's just going to reimburse you for work you were already going to do.

Andrew Hutchinson: And so your feasibility study should be something that's either not yet committed to, or that you can clearly point to the government grant allowing you to add additional components or analysis into that feasibility study or accelerated and bring it forwards faster or something like that.

Susan King: And that Andrew is a really good point that we probably want to let proponents know or potential applicants is that you cannot claim eligible expenditure prior to signing the grant agreement, so until the actual grant agreement is signed, which we're hoping will be in late May, early June,  none of the expenditure you incur prior to that point is eligible expenditure for the grant.

Susan King: Simone next, is this a multi round program?

Andrew Hutchinson: Yep. So that's an excellent question. It's unfortunately we can't give you an answer on that. There is you know up to $50 million available through this particular round, at the moment that would then be the full amount of government funding allocated to this program. And so government may or may not choose to allocate additional funding to this program which it would of course open up the perspective of additional rounds.

Andrew Hutchinson: Equally, although it seems highly unlikely given the healthy interest and the very informed questions being asked, government may not allocate all of that $50 million through this particular round. They might want to do a second one later on with a different focus, or to test the market again.

Andrew Hutchinson: So at this point we can't give you much more than that. Unfortunately, it's a decision of government either on how much of the 50 they hand out this time or whether they're going to extend that with additional funding.

Andrew Hutchinson: Having said that, I think there is a rule in here or there was Susan correct me If I'm wrong, where there's nothing to stop someone who is unsuccessful through a particular round from seeking feedback on that and then applying to subsequent rounds if there is funding. In fact, we welcome that and we'll try and make this, you know, we'll try and do the best we can in terms of providing feedback to people through these processes so that you can refine your pitch for next time. If you are unsuccessful.

Susan King: That's right, Andrew.

Andrew Hutchinson: Brilliant.

Andrew Hutchinson: Now there's two questions here, one from Phillippa and one from Rebecca, which both kind of touch on the issue of what's on and what's not on the critical minerals list. And there's one from Matthew as well. I'll just read them all out and have a bit of a chat. So Phillipa asked, how will the assessment panel treat applications for novel extraction production of copper as it's not necessarily on the critical minerals list? Rebecca asked will nickel be added to the critical minerals list and I see has a groundswell of support there.

Andrew Hutchinson: And then Matthew has asked, given that the critical mineral list has silicon on it for some clarity about whether it's referring to pure silicon metal or high purity silica sand or both. So basically, if a mineral is not- or you know if a substance is not on the critical minerals list, then it is not a critical mineral and it's not eligible under this grant round.

Andrew Hutchinson: So you know, if it's novel production of copper or nickel purely then unfortunately at this point, unless the government decides at some future date to update the list and include those, it's not eligible for grants under here. The bit that's worth clarifying is a lot of the projects are multi commodity. And so for example, there might be nickel, cobalt or, you know, copper cobalt projects to the extent any project produces, you know, nontrivial amounts of a listed critical mineral, then it is eligible and will be considered a critical minerals project.

Andrew Hutchinson: So, you know, this is not a rule of thumb, merely an indicative example. But if 70% of your production is nickel and 30% is copper, or if 100% of your production is a mixed sort of nickel copper hydrate type material - and apologies to any geologists, if I've just done violence to the laws of physics and geology and got all that wrong - then you're eligible.

Andrew Hutchinson: However, if it's, you know, really an immaterial amount of stuff that's being produced is critical minerals and the main purpose is over here. We would have to look very much more closely at that.

Brett Colmer: Andrew, I might clarify that as well. When we talk about the critical minerals list, we're talking about the Australian Government's critical minerals list. I'm conscious there's critical lists all over the world, but we're talking about the one that exists on the Department of Industry's website at the moment.

Andrew Hutchinson: That is a really good point, Brett, and perhaps one of the team could post the link. The current critical minerals list Australian Government list is in the current Australian Government Critical Mineral Strategy at the link that we will post in the chat shortly.

Andrew Hutchinson: In terms of whether things might change and that list get updated, the Government will be considering that they will not be updating it at this stage as part of the current critical mineral refresh, but they will probably look to do it pretty quickly after that and there will be consultation with industry on what should and shouldn't be there.

Andrew Hutchinson: In terms of if you're unclear about whether your project is dealing with stuff that is and isn't a critical mineral like the silicon example from Matthew, we will come back in writing on that with some specific guidance.

Andrew Hutchinson: I think Marie's question might be for Susan to answer, I reckon.

Susan King: Yeah, so Marie's asked if there's a possibility the closing date will be extended until the end of February an extra 10 days for all potential applicants. And it won't be being extended. And the February 20th is a firm date and that has a lot to do with the fact that we have all the funding, the $50 million of funding, has been allocated and we need to have the opportunity to receive the applications, assess them, the decision needs to be made by the Minister, and then we need to do all the contract negotiations, and basically start giving out money before 30th of June.

Susan King: So we're running this in a very tight, compressed timeframe already. So the extra 10 days just wouldn't be possible for us to deliver the program.

Susan King: And I think I can probably answer: Kerry has asked is the Department expecting individual plans covering gender equality and First Nations recruitment, procurement and engagement? Or can this be covered in one plan as significant overlap? Absolutely. Great question. It can be covered all in one plan.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah, we're very interested in the substance of that. More so than the form, I think. So that's a good answer, thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: I might – Matthew’s question about is mineral resource modelling or ore reserve estimation as part of a feasibility study eligible we might have to come back on that one in writing. I have a view, but I don't want to, you know, shoot from the hip and get it wrong.

Andrew Hutchinson: How far up the value chain would you consider funding the project mineral processing active material for?

Andrew Hutchinson: Ah, that's a good question as well, I think.

Andrew Hutchinson: I think the answer here is that the guidelines are pretty clear that we are, you know after critical minerals, mining processing and you know gosh, if you want to go and make something fantastic out of that as well kind of projects then I would think that would be eligible.

Andrew Hutchinson: If you're only doing one stage of a project that's way down the value chain in the manufacturing end, then we would probably be interested in seeing a short written description from you to help provide you with a definitive steer in writing on eligibility or otherwise. But, you know, if you're looking to go from mining into processing into manufacturing, that's great. We- I believe we're certainly willing to consider projects that actually don't do primary mining, but that might be purchasing you know concentrate from the market and doing processing as well. Although we anticipate that's possibly a little less likely in the Australian context. But yeah, very happy to kind of provide a definitive answer on that eligibility question. If we see a description of the project. Susan, would you think that's a fair way to go?

Susan King: Yes.

Susan King: Yeah, we will definitely be able to do that.

Andrew Hutchinson: Gotcha. I think you should probably have a crack at Tracy’s question as well.

Susan King: I will, and Tracy's asked if you can save partially completed forms without losing the content, and you can and there is already quite a large number of forms in draft that people have started, and you're welcome- obviously you don't have to wait till the last day. We encourage you actually to go on and start completing as much information as you can.

Susan King: I think Simone's as well. Yes, Simone with your plans. We're very happy to accept people that have actual plans in place, and we're also very happy to accept and consider people where they have proposed plans on how they might meet their gender and First Nations commitments.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah, I might add to that as well because it's a good question that's probably it's got relevance more broadly than just on First Nations and gender. So completely take your point and agree if your project's at a very early stage, then it might be hard to demonstrate concrete steps towards achieving XY and Z - be that you know diversifying markets for example, if you're not at the offtake qualification stage, you're probably more about signalling an intent to engage with certain markets rather than concrete plans to work with them to do certain things. We will absolutely take that into account in the assessment.

Andrew Hutchinson: The balance that we'll be facing that I'd encourage you all to think about is, you know, you're going to look at- we would look at a project proposal and be going well, how much is this just an ambit claim or the proponent potentially telling government what it wants to hear, versus how much is this a clearly well thought through, clearly articulated and genuinely held direction that the project will go.

Andrew Hutchinson: And so even if you're at an early stage, please think as creatively as you can about how to demonstrate in your proposal that these are not just nice noises you're making.

Andrew Hutchinson: You will be doing the thing that you're saying so you know, maybe if there's a clean energy technology component, you know that you can demonstrate you've been investigating power purchase arrangements for renewables or if there's First Nations engagement directions that you're going to take your project that you've actually got an active dialogue with communities or that there's a letter of support or like I don't know right, it's very context specific, but that just strengthens your application and it removes the ability for the assessment panel to look at something and to be perhaps a bit cynical and say well that's just bolting on a thing in order to fit within the parameters of this of this grant.

Andrew Hutchinson: Toby.

Andrew Hutchinson: Well, I mean, maybe Susan and Brett this might be a 3 way kind of effort here, but Toby has asked about can we have information on the previous grant program which again was the Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative under the previous government that was re-committed to by the current government.

Andrew Hutchinson: I think there's a fair bit of information publicly about that in terms of media releases we would be very happy to put links to that up here. I'm not sure other than that what specific information you're seeking, but Brett and then maybe Susan, do you have any further thoughts on what information is already publicly available we can point people to?

Susan King: Yeah, absolutely, Andrew. And it, that's a great question because one of the things that you'll find out even from this program is that once we decide to give someone a grant, we do publish that on Grants Connect. So you can find the recipients of the grant amounts from the previous program published on Grants Connect and the amounts that they also received for their projects.

Andrew Hutchinson: Alright. Thank you, Brett. Anything to add on that?

Brett Colmer: Yeah, I'd echo that. And I think like the two programs are very similar. So if you are looking for some inspiration, I'd encourage you to have a look at the project activities that were funded in the previous round.

Andrew Hutchinson: Susan I would suggest you might want to lead on Matthew and Jodie's questions there.

Susan King: OK, I might just do Jodie's first with the IP. We have obviously in place like very strict commercial in confidence, etcetera that we follow in the office on a ‘need to know only’ basis. So we don't share people's IP widely around the office et cetera like that so it's up to you the level of detail, but you obviously need to give enough for the committee that's going to be assessing the application to be able to understand exactly what the program is. But our commercial in confidence rules would stop us from sharing anything that you disclose with us, with any other parties.

Susan King: And then Matthew's asked about signing a contract for an engineering firm to undertake a feasibility study before they sign the grant agreement, if the engineering firm hasn't actually commenced work or received payment until after they sign the grant agreement, and the short answer to that Matthew is it all depends on the timing.

Susan King: And absolutely depends exactly what kind of timing that you're talking about. So those kinds of things that we prefer if they come direct to us.

Susan King: If you're looking at doing something, especially if it's significant expenditure - and I probably can't say too much about that because that would just depend on the exact circumstances - but the general rule of thumb is until you've signed and executed a grant agreement there's only funding and expenditure only counts after that date.

Andrew Hutchinson: So perhaps we can come back with something in writing on that particular one. I think because that is that is a good question. It's always going to be challenging to give you a definitive answer verbally on the basis of a sentence or two. But Matthew, very happy to come up with something that's a little bit more bankable.

Susan King: And I think Andrew, maybe one point about that is that we are expecting to have all of these projects that are successful contracted before the 30th of June. So we would think that when you're making your proposals, if you have put in a proposal and you thought that you would be starting the project, let's say around Easter time, that that's not going to happen. So you know, when you're doing your project date, you would be looking at commencing your project probably later in June or in July.

Andrew Hutchinson: Alright, thanks for that, Susan.

Andrew Hutchinson: Catherine asked, will the grant support battery recycling? I think we'll have to take that one on notice. I don't want to give you the wrong answer verbally, but perhaps Catherine, if you could send through a short paragraph or two about kind of the nature of the project and we would have a think about it. I think the general rule of thumb here is that we are looking for projects that support obviously the critical mineral strategy objectives, but if they can draw links to other areas of government emphasis as well, then that can only possibly be viewed as a favourable thing.

Andrew Hutchinson: And so the government does have a focus on circular economy and recycling. It does have a focus on battery manufacturing. And so to me, that is a project I would be very interested in finding out more and just making sure that we give you the right advice on whether or not that fits within these particular guidelines.

Andrew Hutchinson: So hopefully that works for you for now.

Andrew Hutchinson: Michelle has asked how you define incur? I think Susan this is probably related to what you were talking about a minute ago.

Susan King: Yep, and incurs not necessarily the same for tax as it is for grants, but there is some more information in the grant guidelines that talks specifically about entering contracts. So I would say that that's probably the 1st place to go.

Susan King: But DISR doesn't actually have a definition of incur. What we try to do is look at the individual circumstances of the applicant and then we work with the applicants individually to, you know, make sure that their expenditure is in where it's appropriate.

Andrew Hutchinson: Thanks very much for that.

Andrew Hutchinson: Bruce has asked is there a minimum concentration of critical minerals applicable or being targeted that applies to the project eligibility. This kind of goes to my comments before that is there if critical minerals you know, mining, recovery, processing, manufacturing is a material part of your project then we would consider that to be an eligible project. What is material or the flip side what is trivial kind of thing. There is no hard and fast rule on that.

Andrew Hutchinson: You know, I would suggest that something less than 5%, you know, we'd be looking at very closely something more than 5%. You know, we're starting to get more comfortable, but you know there are other variables there and then you know, we might touch a little bit on that in some of the subsequent questions which go to things about like how crucial a particular mineral is to the supply chain. You know, how much kind of overburden and that sort of stuff there is to deal with or- so yeah, that's maybe again if you want to send us a couple of details, we can provide you with a definitive response.

Andrew Hutchinson: If in all of these questions where we're kind of not able to give you a great answer and we're asking for a little bit more information, you know, please give us what you can, and if it's commercial and confidence, please indicate that, and we will find a way to reply to all interested parties in a way that gives everyone the same information, but that doesn't give away the farm in terms of, you know, particular concentration is something that you're really keen but the market doesn't know about.

Andrew Hutchinson: We will obviously screen that and we'll work with you to come up with a response that you're comfortable with and walk that line of confidentiality, but also transparency and a level playing field.

Andrew Hutchinson: Michael. Does merit include how critical the mineral is? Yeah, I reckon it is. It is a material factor for us to think about.

Andrew Hutchinson: The example that I often kind of ponder is that the critical minerals list covers quite a range of different minerals, which themselves each have a range of different applications.

Andrew Hutchinson: You know that idea all the way back on slide whatever it was, slide four, about increasing supply chain diversity and value onshore, the supply chain diversity peace really also goes to how important the mineral is to those other markets. So obviously key markets are going to care more possibly about, I don't know like say for example a heavy rare earth that goes into a defence application or a high end kind of clean energy technology application, than they might about a titanium pigment that goes into bathroom tile whitening kind of powders and stuff like that.

Andrew Hutchinson: And so for magnesium, which I think is the question here, although yes, if those other markets are rating this metal as one of the most critical things, then that is useful information for us to have as part of your proposal.

Andrew Hutchinson: And we'll obviously do our own work to verify that. But I certainly don't think that hurts your case.

Andrew Hutchinson: Pamela asked if she can attach extra bits and pieces - technically Susan's to answer, but I've already indicated that, you know, if it's useful and relevant, it's probably helpful. Please don't put thousands and thousands of unnecessary pages in, because that just slows us down. But Susan, do you want to give a formal answer?

Susan King: Yep, nope, that's right. So what we ask is that people obviously attach everything that's mandatory that we requested, but not to get carried away, attaching a whole lot of other stuff that's not relevant to their claim.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah, but you know, as we said, if you are making some assertions in your First Nation engagement section that you wanted to work with this community and, you know, a short letter of support from that community indicating that there's a mature dialogue, I think that's pretty relevant. And we'd welcome that sort of stuff.

Andrew Hutchinson: In the application requirements that indicates have it costed, I'm going to shamelessly tap out for Michelle's question there Susan and pass to you on that.

Susan King: Yep, in the application requirements, when they talk about having things costed, they can be just quotes that people have achieve that have, you know, have gone out to market or whatever to get a quote or an expert estimation. That's absolutely fine because we expect that not everyone's going to run out and get a final quote for a project that might be relying in some part on this funding.

Andrew Hutchinson: Angus has asked would the CapEx expenditure for commissioning a new critical minerals mine be eligible if the success of attracting that grant funding influences the outcome of the final investment decision?

Andrew Hutchinson: Again, I think that's probably quite context specific. It would seem that where you are proposing to do something genuinely new or that wouldn't otherwise happen if not for the grant, as in, this is not something that's already where you've taken a final investment decision or kind of got that work underway prior to the grant agreement, and it's an eligible activity like creating a new critical minerals mine, then I would think that probably it is.

Andrew Hutchinson: But I'll check with Susan on that and then we might have to do a response in writing to this one and possibly seek a bit more detail. Brett, did you want to go?

Brett Colmer: And I yeah, I'll just say there's a distinction between like pre exploration and post exploration. I think we've actually got a definition in the glossary of the guidelines. So we're not looking to fund drilling of greenfields mines. If you're trying to find some more resource, which is already a known resource, then that's- I think that fits under the criteria. But nothing greenfields, if that makes sense.

Andrew Hutchinson: But if, say, just to noodle on a little bit here. If you're toying with the idea of starting a critical minerals mine and the difference between saying yes, we'll do that or no, we won't do that, is achieving, you know, a small grant funding that goes to accords capital expenditure for say plant and equipment maybe or you know some construction work, and your, you know you can demonstrate you haven't already done that, then I would think that's probably more in the eligible space, but perhaps we seek some more info and come back and writing.

Andrew Hutchinson: Brett, Susan, any further thoughts on that?

Brett Colmer: Yeah.

Susan King: No, I think exactly what you said that we'll just seek some more info to be able to answer that more succinctly.

Andrew Hutchinson: Or, or accurately and succinctly, even.

Susan King: I might move on to Michelle has talked about it indicates in the application requirements that risk analysis for larger projects and how do we define a larger project? We don't have a definition for a larger project and but what we do say throughout the application is that the expectation is, you know, depending whether you're, say, looking to be supported of a grant for $30 million, we would be looking for a lot more information to support your application then we would be if you were say, seeking $1,000,000.

Susan King: But there's no, you know, kind of cut off that we use in general just that you provide information relative to the size of the grant that you seeking and the size of the project that you're doing.

Andrew Hutchinson: Thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: A question from Simone, not dissimilar to the battery question earlier, but will the program support e-waste recycling to extract critical minerals? Brett, what's the position on sort of brownfields or tailings recovery operations?

Brett Colmer: Yeah, I think that's I think that's eligible if that's wrong, well, we'll clarify that. But I I'm pretty sure brownfields and tailings is absolutely within scope.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah. And so I guess if we're, if we're considering brownfields and tailings, then it would not seem to be, it would seem to be pretty consistent to then think e-waste recycling to take critical minerals out might also be in scope, but we'll centrally come back and in writing and confirm that hey.

Brett Colmer: Yeah, sounds good.

Andrew Hutchinson: Beauty.

Andrew Hutchinson: Sam. If we aim to conduct feasibility study and bringing resources production within overseas-

Andrew Hutchinson: Right.

Andrew Hutchinson: Sam, you've written, if we aim to conduct feasibility study and bring in resources production within overseas jurisdictions to supply critical minerals presumably into Australia, do we need to satisfy certain ownership threshold? That is a good question.

Andrew Hutchinson: I would very much like if you could supply us with some information on that. There are examples of critical minerals projects that government has supported through other programs, not through this grant program that would be doing processing on shore in Australia, but purchasing material either through traders or from a mine they own in another jurisdiction, so the government's not against that, but we just need to work out exactly what you're proposing to do and how that fits within the parameters of this program and give you a definitive answer.

Andrew Hutchinson: Brett and Susan, happy with that?

Susan King: Yep.

Brett Colmer: Yep.

Andrew Hutchinson: Beauty.

Susan King: And we've got a question from Michael. Is there a limit on how much can be provided by a state government?

Susan King: No, there's no limit. You just need to remember that you can't have the identical activities funded by the Commonwealth government. They have to be- the funding has to be for different activities, but there's no actual limit on the amount.

Susan King: And the next question from Robert is about successful applicants reporting requirements to ensure compliance with the original grant application. And I am thinking that it was six monthly Brett when we set up this program, but it was definitely not monthly, I'm pretty sure-

Chrys Grogan: Yeah, it'll be 6 monthly, Susan.

Susan King: Yeah, thank you, Chrys. Yeah. So six monthly reports and on the back end of the grant agreement sample that's on the website, if you go to the back of that, you can actually see a copy of what reporting is required because it's included at the very like- as appendices in the draft or sample grant agreement if that's useful.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah, beautiful. Sam has given us a little bit of extra information. That's helpful. Thanks, Sam. We'll come back to you separately in writing to make sure we've got the all the information we need and work with you on an answer that we will then share with the group.

Andrew Hutchinson: Simone has asked and not dissimilar thing. Maybe that's actually probably a good thing, Susan, for you guys to talk about. How do you want to do those subsequent clarifications? I would almost imagine there needs to be a quick chat back and forward between the DISR team and whoever is asking the detailed question. We can work up and answer, make sure there's nothing confidential and then it could maybe be emailed out. Is that how we do it?

Susan King: Yep, and that's I think the best way for if you've got any specific questions to your own circumstances to e-mail that CMREE@industry.gov.au mailbox. But if you just asking for like general queries or advice, we really do encourage you to go to the 132846 number to answer any general queries, so it would only be like you know very specific things in relation to your project to come through to the CMREE mailbox and I'm not sure if we've got a slide actually that shows that address, but I can just post it in the chat.

Andrew Hutchinson: I don't think we do. So maybe the chats that the best way to do it.

Brett Colmer: Yeah, the invitations for this meeting were sent through that inbox, so it should be in your e-mail somewhere.

Andrew Hutchinson: Yeah. That's good. Yeah, let's pop it up in the chat as well. Hey, there it is. Thank you.

Andrew Hutchinson: Matthew's asked about what percentage of grant funding paid on signature the grant agreement. Susan can I have a stab at answering your one and you tell me if I'm right or wrong to see if I pass the test. So I, you know, once- say a company has been announced as found successful by the Minister and then announced the department, as Susan said at the start, starts the process of working through a grant funding agreement with the proponent as part of that you've been negotiating milestones including payment milestones and so it's a little bit- depends on the nature of the project and what's negotiated.

Andrew Hutchinson: I think the usual way we try and do it in government is to manage a bit of risk, so perhaps there's an upfront payment of a proportion of the total amount and then a couple of milestones after that. If you feel that you need more upfront because you'll say putting in orders on long lead items or something like that, then that's a matter to be negotiated with DISR. So Susan, how did I do?

Susan King: Perfect, Andrew.

Susan King: Anytime you're tired of that job, you've got another job here.

Andrew Hutchinson: I'd make a very good APS3 I reckon in your area.

Andrew Hutchinson: I think that's the end of the questions for now.

Andrew Hutchinson: Maybe we just open the floor for a minute or two and then wrap up, noting we're almost at time.

Susan King: And probably just one thing, Matthew for you to know in regard to that funding is that ordinarily that we'd hold back 5% of the grant funding as fairly standard that you would get at the end of the project.

Susan King: So and you'll find, I think when you work with the team that they're very good at working with you. If something's happened like you've got supply chain delays or something that's preventing you from reaching a certain milestone in a certain time, what we really ask is that you develop a good relationship with my team and that you come to us as early as possible.

Susan King: If you're ever having any problems or difficulties or whatever in delivering any of the milestones that you that we've agreed to in your grant agreement and you'll find that where you know we'll work with you to get the best outcome we can.

Andrew Hutchinson: So maybe we'll just do a final check if anyone has any last questions, maybe raise your hand otherwise.

Andrew Hutchinson: Might just make some final comments and then head off.

Susan King: And we do have another information session next week as well. So if you know anybody that was unable to make today's session. So I'll just post the details of that because it's on Wednesday the 1st of February, I'm in WA, so it's 10:30 my time so 1:30 PM.

Susan King: And hand back to you to wrap up. Thanks Andrew.

Andrew Hutchinson: No dramas - we got one last one just snuck in. Is there weighting given to the criterion points for the purpose of the since score requirement- I'm not I'm not fully sure, Angus, that I understand your question but perhaps if you want to shoot that through to us in writing, we'll go through the motions as we've said.

Andrew Hutchinson: Thanks, Charles for your kind words. Thanks everybody for your time and your patience and your participation, most importantly really looking forward to seeing the proposals come in. And don't be strangers: reach out if you’ve got questions.