Opening the sixth edition of Paydirt’s Battery Minerals Conference this morning, Federal Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt told delegates what mattered was that those in the critical minerals sector continued to deliver for the country.
According to the latest numbers from the Department of Industry’s Resources and Energy Quarterly publication, the resources sector alone was forecast to have contributed a record $425 billion of economic activity across the country for the March period.
During the height of the COVID-19 outbreak and disruptions across Australia, that figure dropped to $246 billion. Western Australia, in particular, remained focused on keeping its mining and energy sector producing through the more than two years since COVID-19 arrived on our shores, which no doubt underpinned the scale of that ongoing economic activity.
“You are part of a sector which is carrying the Australian economy,” Minister Pitt said.
“It is you that is allowing us to deliver the essential services that everyone relies on – it is royalties, it is taxes, it is investment, it is all those hard-working men and women in the resources sector who allow us to deliver all the things that were in the budget last week.”
As an example of federal government support for the battery minerals sector specifically, the Minister pointed to the $1.25 billion loan facility it announced this week for Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU) to support the development of what has been touted as the ‘biggest rare earths refinery in the Western World’.
“I just want to acknowledge that that takes an acceptance of risk. Everybody in the room understands what the challenges are when there is a monopoly supplier,” he said.
“The decision has been made by us federally, that this is an area Australia needs to be in, it is an area where Australia has expertise, it is an area where our reputation right around the world proceeds us.”
The Minister linked the future development of the battery minerals sector directly to Australia’s future economic certainty, while also championing recent oil and gas investment decision and development approvals as a key factor in maintaining the country’s prosperity.
“I don’t care what the world is buying, but we are selling – I can’t be clearer than that.
“We have an incredible METS sector, we are building the critical minerals sector and this will be something that will add into the economy up to 50,000 direct jobs by 2050.
“We have to maximise the opportunities and benefits for the Australian people, and that is something I have been determined to do since I came into this role a couple of years ago.”
In terms of policy position, the Federal Government has released the 2022 Critical Minerals Strategy, and committed $2 billion through the critical minerals loan facility which includes $200 million for the Critical Minerals Accelerator Initiative, the guidelines for which were released today.
“We are determined to get as far down the processing stream as we possibly can in this country because our sovereign manufacturing capability is incredibly critical to this country,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter whether it’s in refineries, it’s in critical minerals, or it’s in other manufacturing.
“The things that keep me awake as a member of the Federal Cabinet … and someone that comes from a technical background … is what is the 10 cent washer that we don’t produce that shuts the country, what is the 5 cent item that we can’t get anymore or that has been driven up in price so drastically we can no longer afford it.
“There were a lot of 10 cent washers and we had to address each and every one of them as they popped up, as each of you did in your businesses because it has been a very difficult time.”
For more information or to register, please contact Mitchelle Matambo at Paydirt (08 9321 0355) or Michael Cairnduff at Cannings Purple (firstname.lastname@example.org)