Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan says Australia could become a major global supplier of minerals critical to 21st Century technologies.
Releasing a report on Friday from Geoscience Australia – Critical Minerals in Australia – Minister Canavan said Australia was well placed to produce significant extra wealth from its extensive mineral resources, and world-class mining expertise.
Commissioned by Geoscience Australia in collaboration with RMIT University and Monash University, the report analyses the current state of critical minerals in Australia and highlights key areas for future research.
To be classified as “critical”, a mineral must be both economically important to society and vulnerable to supply disruption and many critical minerals are irreplaceable components of technological and industrial advancement.
The report found there was insufficient knowledge of critical minerals in Australian deposits and their behaviour during metallurgical processing, few dedicated geological studies into critical minerals and there was a need for new mining technology and services to economically extract critical minerals
The critical mineral Indium is a by-product of zinc yet, despite Australia being a major producer of zinc there is no known current domestic production of refined indium even though some smelters may have production capability.
"Other critical minerals, which can be extracted from zinc concentrates, include gallium, germanium and cadmium," the report said.
"A similar situation exists for copper concentrates and associated critical minerals (e.g. tellurium, indium, selenium)."
Merlin is inactive since Chinova shut down nearby Osborne mine in 2014 but is believed to contain 10 per cent of the world’s rhenium.
Senator Canavan said Australian could leverage leadership in the global mineral resource industry to grow our critical minerals sector and Australia was one of the world’s top five producers of critical minerals such as antimony, cobalt, lithium and rare earths.
“The growing list of new and emerging technologies using critical minerals includes advanced manufacturing and health applications, rechargeable batteries, renewable energy systems and electric cars," Senator Canavan said.
Minister Canavan said the Australian Government is committed to ensuring Australia reaches its potential as a global supplier of critical minerals.
“The Australia’s National Resources Statement released in February 2019 outlined the development of a national strategy through the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council to harness the emerging opportunities offered by the critical minerals sector,” Senator Canavan said.
“We also announced critical minerals projects would be prioritised in the latest industry funding round, which closes on March 28.
Senator Canavan said they were engaging with key trading partners on critical minerals.
"Late last year, I signed a Letter of Intent with my counterpart from the United States agreeing to collaborate on joint activities in the area of critical minerals," he said.
The Critical Minerals in Australia: A Review of Opportunities and Research Needs report is available from ga.gov.au/criticalminerals