Australia has rolled out a series of grants to critical minerals companies hoping to speed up development of a battery chemical industry and will soon announce details of a national industry strategy, its resources minister said on Thursday.
Australia is pushing to reap more value from its mineral wealth and become a leading supplier of battery chemicals. It already supplies around half of the world’s lithium and is rich in other minerals critical to the energy transition like rare earths, nickel, manganese and graphite.
The total A$50 million ($34 million) in grants will help develop the next stage of processing for batteries and advanced manufacturing for aerospace, medical, energy and defence applications, Resources Minister Madeleine King said.
“The grants will support Australia’s new Critical Minerals Strategy, to be released shortly and which will outline how Australia can capture the significant opportunity of growing its critical minerals processing sector,” King said in a statement.
Market participants are keenly awaiting Australia’s critical minerals strategy as other jurisdictions such as Canada, the European Union and the US rush to win market share in a processing industry expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2025.
Australia awarded seven companies grants of around A$5 million each and smaller grants to six others.
“While we celebrate the support, our view is the government needs to step up its efforts if it wants Australia to be a cornerstone in metal supply for the energy transition,” said analyst Tim Hoff of broker Canaccord.
“It’s a good start, but to put it in context China has invested $29 billion in its supply chain for batteries and clean tech.”
Grant winners included Australia Energy Storage Solutions which is setting up Australia’s first precursor cathode active materials (PCAM) manufacturing plant in Western Australia.
PCAM, in which Australia has identified a competitive edge, is created from mixtures of battery chemicals in the step immediately before battery cell production.
IGO Ltd won a grant to support its plans to produce nickel-cobalt-manganese PCAM, while gold producer Evolution Mining Ltd was given funds for a project to retrieve cobalt from mine waste.
Other grant winners included graphite producers International Graphite Ltd and Ecograf and rare earths developers Northern Minerals and Australian Strategic Minerals.
($1 = 1.4743 Australian dollars)
(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Sonali Paul)