This page belongs to: Critical Minerals Strategy 2023–2030

5. Unlocking investment in enabling infrastructure and services

Strategically planned enabling infrastructure and services help develop industrial hubs and link the critical minerals sector to domestic and global markets. This reduces costs, lowers project risk and attracts large-scale investment.

Why action is needed

Critical minerals deposits are dispersed across the country. This provides an opportunity to:

  • distribute economic benefits across regional Australia
  • support regional development
  • link regional communities to growing domestic and global markets.

However, developing complex projects in remote locations increases costs and risk for project proponents.

Bringing online local infrastructure such as roads, rail, ports and industrial hubs, as well as lowering the costs of power, water, and chemical inputs are effective ways to support large scale development. These improvements to enabling infrastructure help create clusters of heavy industry where critical minerals producers, users and exporters are co-located. These hubs can:

  • reduce barriers to entry
  • lower operating costs
  • build economies of scale in the sector
  • support regional development.

For example, processing plants located within industrial clusters benefit from:

  • being close to major road, rail and port facilities
  • easy access to chemicals, including reagents
  • being able to reuse or on-sell processing by-products to improve their margins.
Case study

Kwinana-Rockingham Strategic Industrial Area

The Kwinana-Rockingham Strategic Industrial Area (SIA) ensures strategically important industry has access to services and well-buffered, appropriately zoned land in close proximity to key infrastructure such as Fremantle port and road and rail networks. The Kwinana SIA is a specialist centre for chemical and resource based processing industries that leverages the benefits of industrial-scale clustering.

The Kwinana-Rockingham SIA has enabled investment to establish globally significant critical minerals processing facilities and support growing renewable energy industries.

'The cost of transporting raw materials from the mine to processing centres and the cost of shipping value-added products to offshore customers is an important factor in determining whether Australia can be globally competitive or not.'

– Organisation – Equity investor

What we are already doing

The Government has an ambitious infrastructure agenda. The 10-year $120 billion Infrastructure Investment Program provides transformational, nationally significant land infrastructure projects.

The Government recognises that critical minerals will be a key part of Northern Australia’s new economy. The Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) ensures the Government can continue investing in projects that benefit Northern Australia and the nation while boosting employment opportunities. The Northern Australia Indigenous Reference Group plays a key advisory role and has identified priorities to help First Nations businesses and communities prosper in Northern Australia.

The Net Zero Authority will be responsible for promoting the orderly and positive economic transformation associated with achieving net zero emissions. The authority will work with state, territory and local governments, existing regional bodies, unions, the industry, investors and First Nations groups. It will help key regions, industries, employers and others proactively manage the transformation to a clean energy economy.

National Cabinet affirmed through its National Transformation Principles that capturing the benefits of the energy transition, with a focus on supporting regional pathways, is a shared responsibility. It committed to work in genuine partnerships with industry and other stakeholders and maximise opportunities to encourage innovation and support emerging industry needs.

The Government has also committed to working with regional communities in a joined-up and collaborative way. The Regional Investment Framework outlines our approach to ensuring investments across our regions respond to local priorities, build on regions’ strengths and are targeted to where they are needed most. As part of implementing the Regional Investment Framework, the Government is working with local, state and territory governments to better coordinate and target our efforts to deliver better outcomes for regions.

What we will do

Infrastructure investment in the critical minerals sector requires planning to avoid crowding out private investment. During consultation, industry advised they want to work with the Government to identify and support enabling infrastructure that will develop or expand industrial hubs and unlock investment at scale.

The Government will consider its role in stimulating the private sector to deliver infrastructure, compared with direct infrastructure funding, ownership and provision. The Government will review the Infrastructure Investment Program to ensure the infrastructure investment pipeline is properly functioning and we will continue exploring these options to ensure important project ideas are identified and explored. This includes working with financing agencies, state and territory governments and other Australian Government agencies.

Key actions

  • Work with the industry, the community and state and territory governments to identify and consider infrastructure projects that could unlock large-scale investment and growth for the sector.
  • Encourage industrial clusters or hubs where reusing the inputs and outputs of industrial processes could lower costs and make projects globally competitive.
  • Facilitate appropriate consideration of critical minerals enabling infrastructure proposals through Government investment frameworks and advisory bodies, including: