Keynote speech to the World Mining Congress, Brisbane
Thank you for the invitation to speak at this symposium ahead of the 2023 World Mining Congress.
Let me acknowledge the Turrbal and Jagera people – the traditional custodians of the lands we’re meeting on today and pay my respects to their Elders past and present.
I extend that respect to all First Nations peoples in the audience today.
And thank you, Mark Cutifani, for the introduction. It is great to be back in Brisbane.
I’m biased obviously, but if there is any state that can lay challenge to Western Australia for the title of Australia’s resources state it is Queensland.
There are so many exciting projects underway here – QEM’s Julia Creek vanadium project and the Sconi nickel and cobalt project near Greenvale to name just two.
Humans have been extracting mineral resources from the Earth’s surface and subsurface for millennia.
First Nations people were using ochre – natural earths containing ferric oxide, silica, and alumina – for art and religious purposes at least 42,000 years ago.
In my home state of Western Australia, there’s a red ochre mine at Wilgie Mia that’s estimated to be 27,000 years old.
It is the oldest continually worked mine in human history and it remains a site of great cultural significance to the Wajarri Yamatji people.
Base and precious metal elements derived from mining – and then processed, smelted, refined, and alloyed – paved the way for ever-further human advances.
From the Bronze and Iron Ages, through the Roman Empire and later the Industrial Revolution, mining has fuelled the engine of civilisation and progress.
It has made possible the digital revolution that’s given rise to advanced computing, autonomous systems, advanced manufacturing materials and other transformational technologies.
As we grapple with how best to harness these disruptors, another transformational wave is beginning to crest.
The shift to clean energy systems is gaining momentum – and like previous transformations, it will be mineral-dependent.
An onshore wind power plant, for instance, requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.
Each new megawatt of solar power requires between 35-45 tonnes of steel. And steel needs iron ore and coal for the moment. Though exciting developments may eventually see us producing green steel using renewable hydrogen.
The International Energy Agency says mineral requirements for clean energy technologies would need to quadruple by 2040 to keep global temperature increase below two degrees Celsius.
More mining is required to meet this urgent demand for clean energy technologies.
Recent analysis by the IEA suggests the world will need around 50 new lithium mines, 60 new nickel mines and 17 new cobalt mines to meet net carbon emissions goals by 2030.
Right now, there are 26 lithium mines, 186 nickel mines and 89 cobalt mines operating globally.
That means producing more raw materials for renewables and clean energy technologies faster than ever.
And Queensland will play an important role in this particularly with its vanadium potential. While vanadium is traditionally used in high strength steel – it is increasingly being applied in Vanadium Redox Flow Batteries.
These batteries are large scale battery storage systems that store excess power from the grid for use during peak demand periods.
Unlike better known lithium-ion batteries, vanadium redox flow batteries boast superior durability for long term storage and charging and the technology has much greater recycling potential.
And the technology to build them is in Australia.
We all have a role to communicate the importance of the minerals sector in supporting the transition to net zero. Particularly to young people.
This Minerals Policy and Governance Symposium is a chance for us to reflect on how we do this.
We know the road to net zero runs through Australia’s resources sector.
But we must do more to help Australians understand that the resources sector provides significant economic benefits to our country, as well as opportunities to share the benefits with First Nations communities and regional communities.
Mining and downstream processing companies need to move to a more sustainable footing.
The sector must show that it is looking to reduce and minimise harmful impacts on the environment.
Without ongoing efforts to ensure social licence, we – the global mining, minerals, and materials communities – will struggle to win investor backing for new projects.
These efforts are vital to ensure Australia reaps the rewards of being the world’s supplier of resources for the energy transition.
The opportunity is immense.
If we can ramp up mineral production to enable rapid decarbonisation, we could potentially grow the world economy by $62 trillion by 2070.
But this is contingent on having the right investment and policy approaches in place.
Australia as an investment destination
Australia’s national prosperity is underpinned by the resources sector.
More than a quarter of a million Australians are directly employed in resources – over a million more are supported directly and indirectly by the resources sector.
Our biggest resources companies paid nearly $30 billion in taxes in 2020-21, nearly a third of Australia’s corporate tax collected in that year.
As well as sustaining Australia’s national prosperity, our resources are also vital to global security and economic development.
Our iron ore and coal have enabled Japan’s post-war recovery, China’s industrialisation, and the rise of the Asian Tiger economies like South Korea and Taiwan.
Countries like Japan and South Korea are relying on our coal and LNG energy exports as a backstop during their transition to lower-carbon energy.
The Australian Government is committed to ensuring our allies and trading partners have access to our energy and mineral resources into the future.
Strong international partnerships and foreign investment from our partners remains fundamental to Australia’s prosperity.
We want our trade partners to help back new resource projects here in Australia, particularly those around all-important critical minerals.
International collaboration and partnerships
The Australian Government is serious about sustaining and building this nation’s resources sector.
One of the most important ways we can do this is through international collaboration and partnership-building.
We also see international outreach as an important means of advancing our plans for sovereign downstream processing.
The Australian Government has long-term plans to put our manufacturing industry on a more advanced footing, including helping grow globally competitive battery industries in Australia.
By working jointly with our friends and allies, we can expedite mutually beneficial goals.
Last October, I signed a new Australia-Japan Critical Minerals Partnership to establish a framework for building secure critical mineral supply chains between Australia and Japan.
As the Prime Minister foreshadowed in November, we are beginning talks with the European Union to establish a Critical Minerals Partnership.
Other bilateral agreements like the Australian-India Critical Minerals Investment Partnership will give our companies greater certainty.
We are working with the Biden administration in Washington to ensure Australia can make the most of opportunities offered by the Inflation Reduction Act.
This includes the recently announced Australia-United States Taskforce on Critical Minerals, which I will lead alongside counterparts in the US National Security Council, under the Climate, Critical Minerals and Clean Energy Transformation Compact.
Around $590 billion is being committed towards America’s energy transition.
It’s a watershed development that will catalyse investment in sectors critical to net-zero transformation, like minerals and renewables.
We are a free trade partner with the US, and as such Australian companies will gain preferential access to supply them with critical minerals.
We’re also working to deepen ties with Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and individual EU states and investors as they turn their attention to critical minerals and hydrogen.
Innovating and investing in Critical Minerals, value-adding capability, and manufacturing
As I have said, Australia’s proven reserves of critical minerals, rare earth elements and energy transition metals are essential in the fight against global warming.
We are the world’s number one producer of lithium and a top-five producer of cobalt and rare earths.
All are essential for electric vehicle batteries and the magnets that comprise EV motors.
And with 80 per cent of Australia considered “under-explored” by our national geological survey organisation, Geoscience Australia, there are abundant opportunities for new mineral discoveries.
Our world-class scientists and geologists are opening new geological frontiers and developing a pipeline of exciting new mining projects.
Australia must do everything it can as a nation to grab these opportunities.
New Critical Minerals Strategy
Last week I released Australia’s new national Critical Minerals Strategy.
It sets a framework to grow Australia’s critical minerals sector and help create diverse and sustainable supply chains, build our sovereign capability in critical minerals processing and to extract more value from our resources resulting in more jobs and economic activity for regional Australia including First Nations communities.
Our strategy provides a framework for Australia to become a globally significant producer of raw and processed critical minerals.
It outlines how we will grow the skilled workforce we will need to mine these important materials, build international partnerships and target fast track strategically important projects.
Establishing a process to update Australia’s Critical Minerals List is a key action in the Strategy. The process for updating the list will begin immediately and will include a range of analysis and targeted stakeholder consultation. The Government’s intention is to update the Critical Minerals List in a timely manner.
Meeting community expectations, ESG, environmental stewardship, and sector emissions reduction efforts
Part of Australia’s critical minerals opportunity is leveraging the world-class environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials of our resources sector.
Strong environmental and heritage regulations, robust industrial relations regimes, and transparent corporate governance standards are bread and butter for us Australians. It’s encouraging that many investors are already taking heed of this.
Their efforts and those of our resources companies will help promote Australia’s strong ESG credentials.
That in turn will give our producers and exporters a competitive edge in global markets.
We want to provide greater certainty for industry.
But at the same time, we’re ensuring Australian laws protect our environment and our people.
Public expectations demand we operate within sensible constraints – and we owe it to future generations to tread lightly on the earth.
One of the biggest opportunities for emissions reduction in the energy sector is carbon capture and storage.
There are now around 35 commercial capture facilities in operation globally, with a total annual capture capacity of 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The Sleipner project in Norway, the world’s first commercial CO2 storage project, has been storing one million tonnes of CO2 per year, deep below the North Sea, since 1996.
The world’s largest CCS project is the Gorgon Joint Venture at Barrow Island in WA, with a planned annual storage of two million tonnes starting in August 2019.
So far, eight million tonnes of CO2 have been stored in deep onshore sandstone reservoirs off Barrow Island.
While there have been challenges and under-performance with some of these projects, the IEA and other global organisations are clear we will need more permanent carbon storage projects, not less.
Last August, I approved Australia’s first two new offshore greenhouse gas storage permits in 14 years.
CCUS is an important part of getting to net zero and we are focussed on making sure projects that are commercial have regulatory certainty so they can get on with it.
With the world on the cusp of an energy transformation, these are exciting times for the global mining sector.
The opportunities ahead will be significant.
Fully realising them, however, will involve the world’s mining companies embracing new responsibilities and obligations.
These include a commitment to enhancing our environmental and social governance credentials and serious pledges to reduce carbon emissions at source and downstream.
You as an industry are responsible in the first instance for negotiating the challenges and securing the opportunities of the transition.
Know that governments in Australia understand and appreciate mining’s contribution to our collective future.
And as we head into a net zero world, we will work with you for the best possible outcomes.