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Electrifying exploration

4 November 2022 11:56

Global needs for battery-critical metals seem to have no end in sight.

It is no secret why, global electrification and zero-carbon goals are leading the charge, culminating in a forecast of at least 384 combined new graphite, lithium, nickel and cobalt mines needed to align with demand in little over twenty years’ time.

Speaking at the International Mining and Resources Conference, Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia Madeleine King said Australia was in an enviable position, boasting some of the richest deposits of mineral reserves in the world.

“Once again, Australia finds itself in an enviable position thanks to the good fortune of this continent’s geology,” she said.

“Australia’s critical minerals are essential to the technologies at the heart of the energy transition, such as batteries, wind turbines and electric motors.”

With total exploration expenditure rising by nine per cent through the year to stand at $1.3 billion, King said it was a positive sign for the industry’s future.

She noted vast quantities of all these materials will be needed, and Australian production was required to meet the lofty ambition of global decarbonisation.

“This is reflected in the Prime Minister’s announcements in October, of $50.5 million over four years for an Australian Critical Minerals Research and Development Hub, and $50 million over three years for a Critical Minerals Development Program,” she said

Back in 2016, less than a tenth of nickel was being sold into the EV market, today standing close to 85 per cent, and BHP Nickel West asset president Jessica Farrell said it was exciting times in the business.

Farrell said world governments were in support of the industry, advancing policy towards raw, processed and retained materials, including the US Inflation Reduction Act, allowing for significant tax credits in processing,

“What’s even more exciting is that Australian companies are well placed to be a partner of choice, recognising our efforts to address these ethical and environmental concerns, and Australia is a favoured jurisdiction from which to source commodities,” she said.

All battery components and their miners stand to reap rewards.

Fastmarkets Metals and Mining principal consultant Amy Bennett said last month that an impending graphite shortage, rising power costs, the drive to meet renewables and environmental restrictions would all lead to significantly higher prices.

“This will reflect both the incredible underlying market demand and the higher costs associated with graphite production,” she wrote.

“Graphite prices are in a lull, but this lull will prove to be temporary and may well be the calm before the storm.”

A storm that would surely be no natural disaster for Australian exploration.

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