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Industry Matters - a column by Resource Industry Network (May 20, 2022)

Today I want to reflect on a recent story aired on ABC’s 4 Corners program titled “Digging In”, which explained how mineral-rich Australia was firmly in the driver’s seat to challenge world dominance in the race to process critical minerals.

Geoscience Australia defines critical minerals as metallic or non-metallic elements with two characteristics. Firstly, they are essential for the modern technologies, economies, and national security. Secondly, they possess a risk that their supply chains could be disrupted.

The modern technologies that address the global push for reduced carbon emissions, such as solar panels, wind turbines, and electric vehicle batteries, all require the mining of many critical minerals including quartz, vanadium, manganese, graphite, cobalt, lithium, and rare earths, to name a few.

It is our view that critical minerals are not the only answer given the current disparity in economic viability of utilising fossil fuels versus renewables. RIN believes that while decarbonisation is a very important part of the conversation, any steps to eliminate fossil fuels without renewables being ready to take over, is a disaster for the economy.

There is currently a huge gap in the amount of resources required to create comparable amounts of renewable energy to that of fossil fuels. The only way to lessen that gap is to engage with innovative METS businesses, which have the working knowledge of the technologies that brought around step changes to the coal mining industry.

Put simply, they’ve done it once and they will do it again. This is a natural transition for them and the only thing holding them back is a clear roadmap that outlines the gaps, the solutions, and the end goals.

Our value on the world stage due to our world-leading expertise in resource extraction and processing, high-tech engineering, and efficient mining operations (due largely in part to the METS sector) makes us incredibly important in this conversation if we are to lead the world in critical minerals processing.

The ABC program stated how cutting carbon emissions will require one of the biggest increases in mining the world has ever seen, with one contributor conservatively predicting lithium’s use will be up 13 times. Who better to turn to than those Australian METS companies with decades of experience and knowledge in resource extraction?

Here in Mackay, the home of world-class METS innovation, we have a genuine shovel-ready project to address the gaps in the mining of critical minerals, and it can be operational and delivering solutions in a short amount of time.

The Resources Centre of Excellence’ Stage 2 “Future Industry Hub” will incubate and drive the low carbon innovation required to mine our way to a cleaner and greener future.

We are ground zero in terms of a lot of the innovation and technology that will fast track Australia’s position as a reliable supply partner.

But without investment, these types of projects run the risk of not meeting the needs of a world that is racing towards net zero and countries finding other markets if we can’t meet demand.

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Resource Industry Network is the only not-for-profit member group representing the resource sector and allied industries within the Mackay region.

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