PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The resources sector has welcomed the federal government’s decision to prioritise Cooperative Research Center Project (CRC-P) grants for critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt and titanium.
Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews said on Wednesday that for the first time, funding applications related to critical minerals projects will be prioritised under Round 7 of the CRC-P grants, helping to grow the resources sector, driving the nation’s economy and creating more jobs.
Critical minerals are those that could cause economic or strategic issues if affected by supply disruptions, with Andrews saying that up to A$20-million will be available for critical minerals applications as part of this funding round.
“This programme is key in ensuring our industries continue to expand and create new jobs for Australians,” the Minister said.
“The programme delivers tangible outcomes and commercial benefits thanks to industry-led research partnerships, and to date we’ve committed $202-million to 95 projects.
“CRC-P funded research has supported the commercialisation of technologies, products and services that assist businesses across agriculture, clean technology, infrastructure, information technology, artificial intelligence, mining, manufacturing, aerospace and health.
“Prioritising applications for critical minerals is crucial, as they form a major part of commercial technologies like mobile phone chips and electric vehicles.
“The funding is available for grants of up to A$3-million, over a maximum period of three years. In addition to applications in the critical minerals field, the round is open to all industry sectors.”
Minister for Resources and Northern Australia Matthew Canavan said Australia was well positioned to become a world leader in this developing market.
“Demand for critical minerals such as lithium and rare earths is growing rapidly,” Canavan said.
“Australia is uniquely blessed to have many critical minerals, which are increasingly important both economically and strategically across the globe, including lithium which has tripled in price since 2010 on the back of the battery boom.
“This funding round will add even more momentum to our critical minerals sector by helping Australian companies take advantage of its potential, whilst supporting development of the government’s national critical minerals strategy.”
The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) on Wednesday said the decision to prioritise critical minerals was a positive step for the Australian economy and regional communities.
“World demand for critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper and rare earth elements is growing at rapid rates as we develop new energy systems, use more advanced electronics and switch to alternative forms of transportation like electric vehicles,” MCA CEO Tania Constable said.
“Australia has substantial resources of the minerals that support these emerging technologies, and the government’s investment is a welcome initiative to support the next wave of new mining projects in Australia.
“But this opportunity is not guaranteed as Australia faces strong competition from emerging mining regions to attract investment. Australia’s reputation as a stable, low-cost place to do business must be restored if we are to become a reliable supplier of critical commodities to the world.”
Constable said that government policy reforms must deliver modern workplace rules, an internationally-competitive company tax rate, reliable low-cost energy and streamlined regulatory approvals so Australia can secure investment in the mines of the future.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has meanwhile said that the investment of up to A$20-million for critical mineral projects would help to encourage new exploration, which was essential to secure resources job in the future.
“Exploring new areas, as well as the development of the North West Minerals Province, will create a new wave of economic opportunities for Queensland.
“This CRC-P funding should encourage more exploration and development in projects that deliver on our state’s potential,” said QRC CEO Ian Macfarlane.
Applications for Round 7 close on March 28, with funding outcomes expected to be announced in June.