Australia had 81 major critical minerals projects in the pipeline as of December 2022, with an estimated value of between $30 billion and $42 billion. This is up from 71 projects and $22 billion to $36 billion in 2021 (DISR 2022). The 2022 Australian Critical Minerals Prospectus showcased 55 advanced and investment ready critical minerals projects. Competition for capital is fierce, particularly for downstream processing projects. To ensure the industry’s success, we must create and maintain an environment that attracts investment and encourages competitive projects.
Growing the sector and moving into downstream processing, where we can do so competitively, will capture more value, economic benefits and jobs in Australia while boosting our sovereign capability. Modelling commissioned externally by the Department of Industry, Science and Resources indicates increasing exports to maintain our market position for critical and other energy transition minerals as global demand grows could add $71.2 billion in GDP and increase the number of jobs in the economy by 115,100 from 2022 to 2040. However, building downstream refining and processing capability and securing a greater share of trade and investment could generate $139.7 billion in GDP and increase the number of jobs by 262,600 from 2022 to 2040 (see Table 1 on page 10 of the modelling report).
Australia’s location, free trade agreements and reputation as a trusted partner give us enviable access to the world’s major economies. Australia can use these strengths to take advantage of the green trade opportunities this transition offers.
Our robust ESG credentials, underpinned by state and federal legislative frameworks, mean we offer more sustainable and ethical critical minerals than many of our competitors. The growth of the critical minerals sector also holds great promise to support economic development across Australia by ensuring our ESG credentials keep workers and communities protected from environmental and social harms.
The Australian Government is already working towards making Australia a renewable energy superpower. This includes measures in the 2023–24 Budget that highlight Australia’s commitment to transforming our economy to reach net zero, drawing on major international policy and economic developments. Our current world-class minerals inventory together with a strong pipeline of new discoveries will ensure our raw and processed critical minerals are a globally significant enabler of the world’s actions to decarbonise. These and future measures will be underpinned by the following principles:
- strengthening Australia’s domestic resilience
- delivering on emissions reduction commitments
- becoming a world leading exporter of clean energy and value-added, low-emissions products
- ensuring communities benefit from cheaper, cleaner energy and new industries
- remaining a trusted and credible partner in global action on climate change.
By growing the sector, we can:
- help deploy clean energy
- create well-paying jobs, including in our regions
- contribute to a strong future for our resources and manufacturing industries.