COMMODITY CAPERS: Although the next Federal General Election is – at this stage – still months in the offing, it appears we can expect to witness a good deal of strange bed-fellowing going on in the meantime.
This was no more apparent than in the recent joint announcement by Labor Party MPs Kim Carr, shadow minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research; Jason Clare, shadow minister for Trade and Investment and for Resources and the Northern Territory; and Madeleine King, shadow minister for Consumer Affairs, Assisting Small Business, and Assisting for Resources.
It seems the shouts of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) have resonated down the corridors of potential power and have been heard by those responsible for directing the attention of these MPs, resulting in the mining lobby group’s 2018 Report: A lithium industry in Australia: A value chain analysis of downstreaming Australia’s lithium resources. landing on their collective desks.
The report was commissioned by AMEC in January this year and called on the State and Federal Governments to seize the opportunity AMEC believes exists to ensure Australia can realise greater value from its wealth of battery minerals.
Carr, Clare and King declared that should their party be elected it will get behind Australia’s battery metal manufacturing industry.
The sentiment is to be praised, however, the promise came with the usual political reasonings to do such a thing being mainly to create Australian manufacturing jobs and adapting to a clean energy future…blah, blah, blah.
Finally, the triumvirate’s release got into the nitty-gritty of the issue, acknowledging Australia as the world’s biggest supplier of lithium as well as producing every metal needed to make a lithium battery.
“But we still send most of our battery metals overseas without local manufacturing getting much of the action,” they said.
Carr, Clare and King cited AMEC’s study, identifying that the need to develop capacity to store renewable energy, along with the growth in electric cars, and smart devices is estimated in the report to grow the global Lithium value chain from $160 billion in 2018 to $2 trillion by 2025.
“Australia should have a bigger slice of that pie,” the Labor MPs said.
They recognised the ability of Australian manufacturing workers to refine locally-sourced battery metals and make batteries onshore.
“We can be a country that makes more things,” they added, sounding more like our current Prime Minister than they possibly would like.
There are presently companies investing in Australia to refine battery metals and establish battery manufacturing facilities.
Such investments include BHP’s nickel refinery and Tianqi’s Lithium processing plant in Kwinana and the Sonnen battery plant in Adelaide and Energy Renaissance’s battery plant planned for Darwin.
The Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory governments are actively developing their own battery metal manufacturing strategies, actions that have more than likely sparked the federal interest, realising that by being as an advocate, rather than an antagonist, of the mining industry, advancements benefitting all can be achieved.
This point was not lost on AMEC chief executive officer Warren Pearce.
“AMEC has been advocating to all Australian governments to take a leadership role to ensure Australia does not miss out on this opportunity,” Pearce said in AMEC’s response to the announcement.
“This is a modern nation building opportunity, a chance to secure a significant position in a new emerging industry for Australia in what will quickly become one of the largest industries in the world.
“This new industry will create thousands of skilled jobs for Australians.
“Both the Resource 2030 Taskforce Report, and the Chief Economist’s September 2018 Resources Quarterly Report clearly articulate the opportunity that exists for Australia.
“AMEC will continue to engage with both the Federal Government and Federal Opposition to ensure bipartisan support for these nation building initiatives.”