Critical minerals producers seek government support to compete globally

Rachaz, in australian financial reviewA mining summit in Perth on Wednesday said the pandemic was a warning that countries needed to diversify their supply chains.

Australian Mines Council chief executive Tania Constable said the industry needed to streamline state and federal approval processes and plan processing zones with suitable infrastructure.

Pilbara Minerals chief executive Dale Henderson said it could only process lithium ore in Australia if costs were low, which meant sharing infrastructure such as power among competitors to avoid costly duplication of investment.

“I find it funny when Western governments are outraged by China’s dominance because they don’t hide it.”

Amanda Lacaze, Managing Director, Lynas Rare Earth

Pilbara Minerals has formed a joint venture with South Korean resource giant POSCO to build a processing plant in South Korea that is reportedly 40% cheaper than an Australian plant and is backed by a nearly $700 million loan from the host government.

The industry looks to process critical minerals through an industrial ecosystem of transportation, electricity, required chemical inputs, and nearby facilities that can utilize the waste.

Jessica Farrell, president of BHP Billiton Nickel WA, said the company’s plant in Kwinana, a historic industrial area south of Perth, which produces nickel sulphate for lithium-ion batteries, has benefited in this interconnection system.

While Western governments are increasingly focusing on the strategic importance of critical minerals, Henderson warns that change will be slow.

“The world must work with China for many years to come, especially given that the entire battery materials industry is [on] China,” he said.

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