Experts warn that, without sufficient investment, Australia might miss out on a piece of a much larger sector: electric vehicles, as governments throughout the country attempt to capitalize on the growing need for essential minerals and rare earth.
The larger the potential market grows as you progress along the value chain, from making Electric Vehicle (EV) batteries to making the vehicles themselves. According to Rick Valenta, deputy director of the Sustainable Minerals Institute, the annual value of all rare earth produced is over $4 billion, with Australia accounting for 10% of that total.
Mr. Valenta stated, “By the time you’ve manufactured magnets for electric motors and related things, the market is $400 billion – but Australia’s portion of that is zero. And then there are the products, a $4 trillion market in which Australia has no share.”
‘The dream is to supply domestic manufacturers’
Onshore, there are a few downstream processing projects, but they’re all still in the planning stages. The Critical Minerals Hub based in Dubbo is being hailed as the start of a critical minerals boom in New South Wales, and Broken Hill’s Cobalt Blue mine is expected to begin processing cobalt into Electric Vehicle battery-ready components for export in approximately four years.
Joel Crane, Cobalt Blue’s investment relations manager, said that a firm like his would like to offer its product to local manufacturers, but that the sector did not yet exist in any meaningful sense. “The dream is to [provide domestic manufacturers]. We’d like to be a part of the early stages of this business, as there isn’t one yet… However, it is logical that there ought to be, especially in mining hubs “he stated.
Unless the federal government takes a national approach and encourages healthy investment, the absence of a sector around our vital minerals is probably to continue. Gail Broadbent, a researcher at the University of New South Wales who studies electric vehicle adoption, believes there is a strong public demand for EVs in Australia.
“There’s such high demand,” Ms. Broadbent added, “that individuals have to stand in line for months to acquire one. Some models sell out within 2 hours of being posted on the internet.” Meanwhile, state governments, especially those in Victoria and New South Wales, have forged ahead with plans to electrify their fleets and purchase Australian-made goods. Despite the fact that many states have signed on, Ms. Broadbent believes the top-down planning was only cosmetic. “At this time, there is no strategy for electric vehicles. It’s just sprinkling a little cash now and then to make it appear as if we’re doing anything, “she added.