edition of In the Zone focused in on critical materials: securing Indo-Pacific technology futures, and brought together experts and influencers from across the nation and the Indo-Pacific region to The Westin Perth on Tuesday 8 October, hosted by The University of Western Australia in partnership with the Perth USAsia Centre.
Following a traditional Welcome to Country, the conference was officially opened by the Governor of Western Australia, The Hon. Kim Beazley AC who highlighted the opportunities which exist for Western Australia in critical material and rare earth production. The Hon Bill Johnston MLA, Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Energy supported these comments, indicating Western Australia could secure a global supply chain, with competitive costs and expertise such as the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.
The Hon. Kim Beazley AC.
Dr Steven Fortier, the Director National Minerals Information Center provided an United States perspective, suggesting strategic vulnerabilities in the critical materials in supply chain, with China close to monopolising the market. Dr Fortier called for minerals-specific mitigation strategies throughout the entire supply chain.
Premier Corporate Partner Rio Tinto was represented by Vice President Corporate Relations, Brad Haynes. Brad indicated Rio Tinto now have an increased focus on critical materials. He pointed out that while some critical materials may not be commercially viable to mine today, they will be with technological advancements.
The first panel of the day discussed sustainability and security challenges, was moderated by the Centre’s Erin Watson-Lynn and included Dr Elenore Lebre, Researcher, Sustainable Minerals Institute, and Dr Natalie Ralph, Research Fellow at Deakin University. Social and environmental risks were discussed, with panellists indicating that long-term investment decisions need to be sustainable decisions.
Dr Natalie Ralph, Dr Eleonore Lebre and Erin Watson-Lynn.
The program featured experts from across the Indo-Pacific region, including Dr Xavier Jayakumar Arulanandam, the Government of Malaysia’s Minister of Water, Land and Natural Resources, as well as Tadashi Maeda, representing the Japan Bank for International Cooperation. While Malaysia is currently developing its minerals and resources strategy and execution, Japan is ready to invest.
Dr Ursula Fuentes Hutfilter of Climate Analytics shared insights on the role critical materials can play in reducing emissions. Walk Free Foundation CEO, Serena Grant shared concerning statistics with delegates around child and free labour issues currently marring the critical materials industry. Serena suggested it’s not just about the security of supply, but also, the integrity, and that Australia can become involved to ensure both legal and ethical compliance when it comes to production.
The second panel of the day discussed critical materials as they relate to technological innovations. It was moderated by Miranda Taylor of National Energy Resources Australia, and included panellists Dr Sarah McAlpine of Geoscience Australia, Dr Laura Kuhar of CSIRO, and Professor Eric May from UWA.
As the only company producing rare earths outside of China, Lynas Corporation’s Amanda Lacaze shared a great deal on lessons learned, the current state of the industry and recommendations for government policy.
Centre founding CEO Professor Gordon Flake led the third panel to discuss the challenges for financing critical materials, which featured ANZ Bank’s Dr Grant Nicholas and Chong Lek Foong of the Singapore Stock Exchange. The level of investment required for critical materials was highlighted, as was Singapore’s role in the industry.
Shadow Minister for Trade Madeleine King MP opened the afternoon program, providing a historical look at critical materials. Japan’s perspective on the matter was presented by Mitsuya Hirokawa, the Executive President of the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation. Carmot Strategic Group’s Daniel McGroarty suggested each critical material needs its own supply chain, and that we are entering a period of action, with the last decade representing one which has not been systematic nor strategic.
The fourth panel of the day covered business strategies for building critical materials partnership, and was moderated by Tania Constable PSM of CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia and featured Ken Brisden of Pilbara Minerals, Mark Tory of Northern Minerals and Mike Tamlin of Neometals.
China’s perspective on critical materials was presented by Xu Aidong, of Beijing Antaike Information and China Non-ferrous Metals Association. Xu called for the need to develop more secure and sustainable critical materials value chains, and recognised Western Australia’s value to other Indo-Pacific partners. She also pointed out that China depends on imported raw materials for battery metals.
Yoseph Swamidharma of the Association of Indonesian Geologists, which is a not for profit organisation, designed to support Indonesian geologists. Yoseph indicated Indonesia is benchmarking and building partnerships with other countries, recognising the potential of critical materials as contributors for green energy, electric vehicles and ultimately climate change.
Ambassador Anil Wadhwa of New Delhi’s Vivekananda International Foundation presented on India’s perspective on critical materials. Ambassador Wadhwa informed delegates that India has a planning document for its resource requirements to 2020, with a critical materials strategy to 2030. He also pointed out that India’s national electric vehicles plan seeks to completely switch to electric vehicles, potentially requiring Australia’s help as the largest producer of lithium.
Ambassador Anil Wadhwa.
Professor Jacques Eksteen of Future Batteries Industries Cooperative Research Centre presented on new battery innovations in Australia.
The final panel was led by the Centre’s conference convener Dr Jeffrey Wilson, leading a discussion on Australian policy innovations for critical materials, with panellists including Dr Heather Smith PSM of the Department of Industry Innovation and Science Australia, Jenny West of Austrade and Rebecca Brown, Director-General of the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.
New energy grid technologies and critical materials formed the focus of a presentation from Horizon Power’s Andrew Blaver, who gave a snapshot of the utility’s current service provision, with an increase in distributed energy resources and standalone power systems.
Minister of Finance, Senator The Hon Mathias Cormann delivered concluding remarks and presented on the government’s critical minerals strategy, which includes increased supply of these materials to the United States. He confirmed the Government eager to position Australia as a world leader in extraction, production, processing and a reliable supplier of critical materials.
Senator The Hon Mathias Cormann.
More images from the day, and videos of the presentations can be found here.