Critical Minerals Facilitation Office launches

Photo: Critical Minerals Facilitation Office

The Critical Minerals Facilitation Office is now open for business, Resources and Northern Australia Minister Matt Canavan announced on Saturday. The Office will seek to maximise opportunities for Australia’s critical minerals, which are found in mobile phones, computers and electric cars.

“We have the potential to become an international powerhouse in the supply of critical minerals, with increasing demand from rising use of electric cars, renewable energy and smart phones,” Canavan said.

Australia is one of the top five producers of critical minerals – such as antimony, manganese, ilmenite and rutile – and the second largest producer of rare earths.

The new Office will be led by Jessica Robinson, a former senior official in Treasury and Prime Minister and Cabinet. According to Canavan, Robinson has experience in developing policy for critical minerals and foreign investment.

“The technologically advanced world we live in is dependent upon a variety of minerals and metals. These minerals, which we call critical minerals, are in our mobile phones, our computers and are essential for renewable energy technologies. At the moment, many of the world’s critical minerals come from just a few countries,” Robinson said.

“The increasing global demand for a secure supply of these minerals presents an economic opportunity for Australia. Australia has world leading-deposits of many critical minerals, including rare earths. But we are yet to develop the industry at a large-scale.”

The Office will work alongside all levels of government, industry and the research sector in order to drive domestic and international actions to position Australia as a secure and reliable supplier of critical minerals, maximising opportunities and developing downstream industries.

“As Head of the Office, my mission is to work with the sector to develop a clear, shared vision for Australia’s critical minerals sector. I want to join all the different parts of the sector together, from research and development in universities, to pilot and full-scale projects on the ground, to promoting business opportunities in supply chains both here in Australia and overseas,” Robinson said.

Australia published its Critical Minerals Strategy in March 2019. The Strategy targets actions in three areas:

  • promoting investment in Australia’s critical minerals sector and downstream processing
  • providing incentives for innovation to lower costs and increase competitiveness
  • connecting critical minerals projects with infrastructure development

Minister Canavan announced the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office in November, ahead of crucial talks in the United States where Australia and the US formalised a partnership on developing critical minerals supply chains.

A detailed plan to support joint action is set to be developed when senior officials meet in Washington in late February and will complement a range of actions Australia is pursuing with key international partners, including Japan, India and Europe.