Mining ready to ride boom with $2 trillion up for grabs

·3-min read
Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS

A faster path to net-zero emissions and more security in the Indo-Pacific are expected to flow from a new pact with the United States, but the mining industry wants details.

Some $2 trillion has been unleashed for a low-carbon economy under United States laws, with Australia set to get preferential treatment as a trusted source of critical minerals and new energy sources such as hydrogen.

Canada is the only other country to get the special access that is in the works for Australian metals and minerals, future hydrogen and ammonia producers and defence technology companies.

"What's clear to me is that if Canada and the United States have been able to establish a good partnership, that bodes well for Australia," Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable told AAP.

But it's up to governments to work out the details quickly, she said.

With the right number of mines to meet demand and manufacturing occurring with a like-minded country, there will be a faster path to net-zero and more security in the region, she said.

"Hopefully the critical minerals strategy will set out a framework and pathway for those additional incentives that will really turbocharge this new industry," Ms Constable added.

Australia's updated list of critical minerals and strategy will be released soon and MCA wants nickel and copper added to unlock investment.

"The more we can get on the list the better, but nickel and copper should certainly be on the list," she said.

Used in everyday life in computers and mobile phones, they are also essential for electric cars and electronics for the electricity grid.

US Consul General Siriana Nair said on Wednesday the world's energy transition cannot happen without Australia's resources sector.

The freshly inked climate and energy partnership will increase investment in both countries, Ms Nair told the AFR Mining Summit in Perth.

"Australia is uniquely positioned to be a supplier of choice for us and global manufacturers," she said.

Demand for critical minerals will skyrocket in coming decades and for minerals such as lithium and graphite that are used in electric vehicle batteries, demand will increase by as much as 4000 per cent, she said.

An unprecedented $2 trillion has been allocated under various US laws to support investment in research and development, adopting clean energy and new vehicles, new infrastructure and supply chain security, she said.

Seeking to break China's stranglehold on the global supply of factory-ready minerals, the US laws define a critical mineral as a mineral essential to economic or national security and which has a supply chain vulnerable to disruption.

She said Australia, and particularly Western Australia, has the technological know-how and high environmental and labour standards needed to bring these minerals to market in a sustainable way.

"And America stands with you," Ms Nair said.

A new Australia-US task force will give local industry a seat at the table to secure vital supply chains for minerals and defence industries.

A global survey released by KPMG to coincide with the summit shows mining leaders are confident they can profit from the clean energy boom and hit net-zero goalposts.

Improving energy efficiency was the highest priority for tackling the environmental challenges from mining and metals processing.