The federal government has committed $50 million over three years to establish the virtual National Critical Minerals Research and Development Centre.
The Centre will combine expertise from CSIRO, Geoscience Australia, and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
The announcement follows a $200 million accelerator grants program and an updated industry strategy to support the country’s critical minerals industry.
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt said the centre will build Australian capability in minerals processing, targeting technical bottlenecks in strategic supply chains, and driving breakthrough collaborative research.
“The Centre’s projects will help unlock new sources of economically viable critical minerals, and diversify supply chains of strategic interest to Australia and our allies,” he said.
Pitt said the accelerator initiative will provide grants to strategically significant critical minerals projects at the early to mid-stage to fast-track them to market.
“By backing these important projects, we are also driving private sector investment to enhance Australia’s strong international reputation as a reliable supplier of the resources the world needs,” Pitt said.
The 2022 Critical Minerals Strategy sets out to grow the sector, expand downstream processing and help meet future global demand.
“The Strategy will cement Australia’s position as a leading producer of critical minerals, while contributing to our national security and economic prosperity,” Pitt said.
Chamber of Minerals and Energy (CME) director of policy and advocacy Rob Carruthers said the focus of the program on early to mid-stage development would be welcome news for proponents of eligible projects.
“It’s well known that critical minerals projects can be complex, capital and resource intensive and carry significant risk during the early project phases,” Carruthers said.
“CME continues to work closely with industry, the federal government and state government to build on Western Australia’s current strengths to leverage opportunities in the critical minerals and battery value chains.
“WA is already the largest producer of mined lithium, a top-five producer of nickel, rare earths and cobalt, and will also be home to refineries producing highly purified lithium, nickel and rare earth carbonates.
Carruthers said the the announcements complement the WA state government’s focus in this area, recognising WA as well placed to leverage its world class resources and expertise to grow participation through the supply chain.