Research and commercialisation
Australia’s world class research and development (R&D) institutions are well placed to address technical challenges for critical minerals project development.
The Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) Program funds industry-led collaboration between industry, academia and end users. This includes the Future Battery Industries CRC which enables value adding to Australian resources, supports domestic refining and manufacturing of materials, components, cells and packs. It also aims to help address the challenges associated with the energy transition.
The Government is investing up to $50.5 million to establish the Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub. It is addressing strategic technical challenges and will support international R&D collaboration by bringing together the world-leading R&D expertise within Geoscience Australia, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).
The $50 million Resources Technology for Critical Minerals Trailblazer will build research capabilities, increase commercialisation and invest in industry engagement. The initiative is hosted by Curtin University in partnership with The University of Queensland, James Cook University and over 30 company partners across Australia.
A key challenge for Australia is ensuring that our intellectual property (IP) and technologies are deployed to grow the Australian sector. The Government is reviewing licensing and commercialisation settings for federal science agencies and R&D initiatives to ensure they encourage benefits flowing to the domestic sector. Australia’s globally renowned expertise in mining equipment, technology and services (METS) encourages strong international partnerships that should continue to be fostered. Existing research hubs create long-term partnerships that collaboratively develop research and technologies domestically and internationally. Australia’s intellectual property system plays an important role in attracting new technologies from overseas, by facilitating the transfer of IP through licensing, trade and investment. It will be crucial to build partnerships with and attract investment from, international companies that have developed and deployed relevant IP overseas. This will enable Australia to benefit from technologies that have been proven and accelerate how quickly we can scale up the sector.
What we will do
The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will play an important role in supporting the growth of the critical minerals sector. To support the growth of the critical minerals sector, particularly downstream processing, the Government will ask NAIF to earmark $500 million to support projects that align with this Strategy.
Australia is the world’s biggest producer of raw battery minerals, but we currently have a modest share of the global markets for processed minerals and high purity battery precursors. Our Australian Made Battery Plan will use our significant endowment of critical minerals to build Australia’s domestic battery manufacturing capability.
The global race to secure supplies of critical minerals is rapidly accelerating. Foreign companies are securing ownership and offtake arrangements for a large share of Australian minerals, particularly lithium and rare earth elements. In this context, Australian processors and manufacturers may struggle to access supplies of Australian minerals in future. This would affect our strategic and energy security.
Increasing Australia's sovereign capability in mineral processing will involve moving beyond exporting ores and undertaking more concentration, separation, refining and smelting onshore. We can use these high-purity, value-added chemicals and metals to realise economic benefits for Australia. For example, at present Australia’s lithium and cobalt resources are largely exported as concentrates. By chemically refining these minerals to produce lithium hydroxide and precursor active materials, Australia has an opportunity to add significant value to our exports.
The Government is analysing the type and volumes of minerals our emerging downstream processing and manufacturing sectors will need and when they will need them and where the best economic gains are in the chain of production of batteries. This includes considering policy options that enable domestic supply of Australian critical minerals for Australian projects. The form and remit of any future approach must be tailored to the specific needs of the Australian economy within the global context.
Australia can scale up downstream processing and manufacturing by encouraging collaboration with, and attracting investment from, global firms that have developed and proven their IP overseas. This is becoming a growing focus for companies that are increasingly pursuing strategic commercial partnerships, which also enable access to IP and knowledge sharing from demonstrated experience of international partners. There is potential for these partnerships to be leveraged to ensure Australia continues to attract international IP and grow domestic capability. Further, Australia’s intellectual property system plays an important role in attracting new technologies from overseas, by facilitating the transfer of IP through licensing, trade and investment
- The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will play an important role in supporting the growth of the critical minerals sector. To support the growth of the critical minerals sector, particularly downstream processing, the Government will ask NAIF to earmark $500 million to support projects that align with this Strategy.
- Establish the National Reconstruction Fund, which includes $1 billion for value-add in resources and $3 billion for renewables and low emissions technologies.
- Continue to evaluate the appropriateness of policy settings in the context of critical minerals’ linkages to critical technologies, national priorities and Australia’s competitive strengths, including how investment settings complement Government initiatives.
- Support a strong pipeline of new critical mineral discoveries and projects through government geoscience programs and strategic leadership.
- Review licensing and commercialisation settings for federally funded research relevant to the critical minerals sector to ensure it provides domestic benefit aligned with the Strategy’s vision.
- Leverage Government research and development programs, capabilities and leadership to support the sector’s development.
- Analyse the type, volume and timing of mineral requirements for Australia’s processing and manufacturing sector.
- Wherever appropriate, industry policies should complement broader policy goals such as:
- genuine engagement, agreement making and benefit sharing of business and employment outcomes with First Nations communities
- gender equality
- regional development
- environmental sustainability and emissions reductions
- alignment with state and territory plans for developing critical minerals.