Speech to the Future Facing Commodities Conference, Singapore


Thank you to the organisers for the invitation to speak.

I am delighted to be here in front of an audience that includes such a vibrant mix of miners, leaders, investors, governments, innovators, and suppliers.

Thank you also to the previous speaker Joe Lowry, who I think has nicely framed the challenges and opportunities ahead of us.

And I see the next speaker is Alex Dorsch from Chalice Mining. What an exciting discovery they have there with the Julimar Project, just outside of Perth. For those who don’t know the Gonneville deposit was discovered just three years ago and is one of the largest nickel sulphide discoveries worldwide in over 20 years and the largest ever platinum group element discovery in Australia.

Conferences like this inaugural Future Facing Commodities Forum bring us together to discuss the world’s growing demand for the minerals we need to prevent dangerous climate change.

Trade and business ties between Australia and Singapore are robust.

Singapore is Australia’s largest trade and investment partner in South-East Asia, and our fifth largest two-way goods and services trading partner overall.

From a resources perspective, Australia’s relationship with Singapore is crucial.

As you are all no doubt aware, the resources sector is at the heart of the Australian economy – we wouldn’t be the nation we are today without resources.

And in my home state of Western Australia the resources industry is a part of just about everyone’s lives.  

Nine of the world’s top 50 mineral projects are now based in Western Australia, including six of the world’s 10 highest value projects.

Perth was put on the map by the goldrush of the 1890s. But it was the opening of the iron ore trade that transformed WA. The LNG industry followed.

Critical minerals now stand as the next chapter in the story of Western Australia’s resources industry.

Australia’s resources sector reached record export earnings of $422 billion in 2021-22.

This is 70 per cent of the total value of all our exports.

Singapore is an important energy and trading hub for Australia’s resources sector.

Several Australian companies use Singapore as a regional base, including BHP, Rio Tinto, and Fortescue.

The global move to net zero presents many opportunities for Singapore and Australia to work together and capitalise on the growth of new industries.

The Singapore-Australia Green Economy Agreement (GEA) was signed by the respective Trade Ministers in October 2022.

Implementation of the GEA will involve the active participation of businesses, investors, organisations, and other stakeholders supporting both nations’ economic transition to net zero.

Last week, in my address to the Australian Parliament on the future of the resources sector, I emphasised the crucial role that critical minerals would play.

Critical minerals are destined to play a significant part in Singapore’s ambitions to decarbonise.

Critical minerals are going to be at the centre of not only climate mitigation, but also global security.

We know that critical minerals, rare-earth elements, and energy transition metals are going to be vital in the future to support the manufacture of batteries, solar panels, electric vehicles, and other high-value products.

That means the demand for lithium, cobalt, rare earths, platinum group elements, among many others, will continue to grow.

The International Energy Agency says that the world is on track to double its overall mineral requirements for clean energy technologies by 2040.

Nations that can ensure a resilient and diverse supply of these materials will reap the benefits.

Australia is well-positioned to be a partner of choice to support countries like Singapore.

Australia is fortunate enough to boast some of the richest deposits of critical minerals reserves in the world.

We have the world’s second largest deposits of lithium and cobalt, and the 6th largest for rare earths. 

But we can’t develop these on our own.

Foreign investment from likeminded partners will be crucial to getting Australian projects off the ground and establishing new, diverse global supply chains.

Australia of all nations understands the need for increased foreign investment in our critical minerals and manufacturing sector to help get Australian projects off the ground.

Australia’s resources industry was founded thanks to foreign investment. And it will be those same foreign investors help us build our critical minerals industry.

With the trifecta of rich critical minerals deposits, an established and highly skilled resources sector and high environmental, social and governance standards, Australia is an attractive partner to those wanting to develop new critical minerals supply chains.

We are doing a great deal of work to unlock the full potential of our critical minerals endowments.

We are supporting sector growth through initiatives like the $2 billion Critical Minerals Facility, and the $100 million Critical Minerals Development Program.

An example of this support can be seen in Iluka Resources’ Eneabba project in Western Australia. When operational this will be Australia’s first fully integrated rare earth oxide refinery. This refinery has received approval for a $1.25 billion loan through the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Facility – administered by Export Finance Australia. 

Other critical minerals projects have found support from the Government’s Northern Australia Investment Fund.

Hastings Technology Metals secured a $140 million loan through the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund for its Yangibana project.

This project located in the Gascoyne region in my home state of WA, contains substantial Neodymium and Praseodymium resources.

Hastings has recently entered into non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with French chemical company Solvay.

The agreement outlines the intent of both parties to enter into a binding offtake agreement for the supply of an initial 2,500 tonnes per annum of mixed rare earth carbonate from Yangibana to Solvay’s plant in La Rochelle, France.

The Australian Government is developing a new Critical Minerals Strategy, which will outline how Australia can grow the sector and move further along the value chain.

It’s also going to explore the important role our critical minerals can play in helping Australia and international partners, including those in South-East Asia, achieve their net zero targets.

This strategy complements work across government in industry policy, like the National Battery Strategy and National Reconstruction Fund, our ambitious emissions reduction targets, and our foreign policy objectives.

Broadly speaking, the NRF has been designed to diversify and transform Australia's industry and economy.

The government has earmarked $1 billion of NRF finance to invest in projects that add value in our resources sector.

In essence, it’s about making sure a greater share of our raw materials are processed in Australia.

For example, the NRF could invest in mining science technologies that support the refining, processing and recycling our resources into higher value products.

I’ve highlighted our vast reserves of high-quality minerals and the fact that we are a world leader in the resources sector.

The NRF will help us capture more value from these mineral resources, for example, in the manufacturing of batteries.

Our determination to get the setting right underscores how strongly we believe critical minerals and battery manufacturing can create economic opportunities across Australia and beyond.

We would like Australia to become a partner of choice for Singapore when it comes to critical and battery minerals.

Our large critical minerals reserves, technical expertise, and track record as a reliable and responsible supplier of resources and energy mean we can play a large role in meeting global critical and battery mineral needs.

The Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), announced in May last year, is one example of the way we are working closely with key strategic partners on critical minerals.

An objective of IPEF includes ensuring access to key raw and processed materials, semiconductors, critical minerals, and clean energy technology.

As Australia and Singapore are both IPEF members, this offers further opportunity to increase Australia and Singapore’s cooperation on critical minerals and associated values chains.

I would remind you though we should not forget when discussing this theme of future facing commodities the role that traditional resources such as gas, iron ore, bauxite and coal will play as the world focusses on reducing emissions.

Iron ore and coal are needed to produce the steel which is essential for wind and solar generation. Each new megawatt of solar power requires between 35 to 45 tons of steel, and each new megawatt of offshore wind power requires 120 to 180 tonnes of steel.

Gas meanwhile will provide the flexibility we need to add more renewables to the grid, while being a vital feedstock and heat source to process those critical minerals.

The change in the air, driven by the global commitment to net zero, means new opportunities.

Nations that are pro-active, innovative and clever in the way they work with their strategic partners will be best-placed to make the most of these opportunities.

We are determined to be one of those countries, and we see nations like Singapore and others in South-East Asia as playing a significant role.  

Ultimately, capturing more value from critical and battery minerals is going to build new industries, create high-paying jobs, and boost trade and investment.

It’s an opportunity too good to miss, and we are looking forward to you joining us on the journey.

Thank you.