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WA invests A$40m in critical minerals

4th April 2023

By: Esmarie Iannucci

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor: Australasia

     

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PERTH (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian government on Tuesday announced a A$40-million investment to accelerate critical minerals discoveries.  

The Sustainable Geoscience Investments package, included in the 2023/24 State Budget, addresses the ever-increasing demand for critical minerals used in technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage and solar panels, the government said in a statement.

Western Australia currently accounts for half of global lithium production and is a major exporter of nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earth elements. However, research shows the world's known reserves of critical minerals cannot meet future needs.

“The transition to clean energy represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Western Australia as economies around the world seek to secure their critical minerals supply chains.

No other Australian state comes close to matching our commitment to minerals and energy exploration, and Western Australia continues to lead the pack by some distance,” said Premier Mark McGowan.

"This major investment into geoscience builds on the strong foundation of our world-leading resources sector, paving the way for growth in a low-carbon future.”

The A$40-million investment aims to build on its successes to date and to accelerate resource discoveries in Western Australia, with initiatives including a A$16.1-million boost to the Exploration Incentive Scheme to increase greenfield exploration and creating a new Geophysical Co-funding Program (GCP). The GCP will support better decision-making around land use by excluding ground that shows little or no prospectivity.

Funding would also include A$6.7-million for an Industry Ready Program (IRP) to create data analytics packages for key regions and commodities. The IRP will also sponsor up to three graduates a year to boost their skills by working at the Geological Survey of Western Australia.

An additional A$6.2-million will be spent on magnetotelluric data acquisition to enable more targeted exploration. This data will be particularly powerful when combined with the passive seismic data being collected through the government's ongoing WA Array project.

A further A$4-million boost will go to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia to expand research and innovation in net zero and waste reduction projects, while A$3.3-million will go to update and optimise core libraries in Carlisle and Kalgoorlie, including new bionic lifting equipment, and A$3.7-million to redevelop and improve many of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety's online data services.

“Accelerating exploration activity is crucial to our state's future economic success, and I am confident this funding will help the industry unearth Western Australia's next big discovery,” said Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.

“We need to keep providing high-quality data for resource exploration to help maintain our global reputation as a proven investment partner. Western Australia competes with several other jurisdictions to attract exploration investment so the government will continue to support programs that provide our State with competitive advantages in this area.

"Western Australia's resources sector delivered a record A$231-billion of sales in 2021/22, and the bedrock of this success was the hard work put in by minerals exploration companies,” Johnston added.

The Sustainable Geoscience Investments package will build on other initiatives to facilitate green energy projects, such as the Green Energy Assessment Unit, Future Battery Industry Strategy, Diversification Leases for large-scale renewable energy projects, and sustained investment in hydrogen.  

Since the mid-2010s, Western Australia has attracted more than A$9-billion in investment for a range of battery and critical minerals projects, including the establishment of globally significant mineral processing facilities.

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (Amec) has welcomed the state government’s investment into the critical minerals sector, saying it sent a strong message to investors, project developers and researchers that Western Australia was serious about propelling its critical minerals potential to meet net zero targets.

“While Western Australia is a global leader in lithium and nickel, there are a range of other emerging critical minerals opportunities ripe for investment, including vanadium, manganese, rare earth elements, and cobalt,” said Amec CEO Warren Pearce.

“Funding for the projects under this announcement will accelerate our transition to a decarbonised economy, and continue to support a highly skilled, diversified future workforce.”

Pearce said that the projects supported by efficient approvals functions would all hasten Western Australia’s development of a vibrant critical minerals sector, and support its ongoing transition to a decarbonised economy.

“Direct government support of exploration will accelerate the discovery of mines of the future, which will deliver long-term, wide-ranging economic benefits to local communities and the state.”

“Western Australia is on the precipice of a new age as we continue to progress innovative critical minerals opportunities. Support from the Western Australian and federal governments is vital to capitalise on heightened private investment momentum as global competition increases,” Pearce added.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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