Australia’s mining investment embraces gold, battery minerals

Gum Creek Gold Open Pits – Aerial View. Image by Panoramic Resources Ltd.

Gold and battery minerals are drawing fresh investment interest in Australia, adding to expanding plans for new natural gas, iron ore and coal projects, an Australian government report said on Monday.

Over the 12 months to end-October 2020, the number of major resources and energy development projects rose by 19% to 335, while the value of projects in the investment pipeline rose by 4% to A$334 billion ($245 billion), the Department of Industry report said.

The value of gold projects jumped 33%, spurred by record gold prices, with a number of shuttered mines targeting restarts, while exploration and development of new projects are also increasing rapidly.

Old gold mines set for a restart include the A$102 million Katanning project in Western Australia, which ceased output in May 1997, and Horizon Gold’s Gum Creek, which ended in 2005. Australian dollar gold hit a record A$2,872.60 in August.

Meanwhile, an uptake in battery technology has driven greater investment in nickel, cobalt, rare earths and lithium, with the value of such projects rising 7%, the report said.

The interest has led to the potential for further investment in domestic processing facilities, with some 60 projects now in the “battery commodity” space, valued at over $26 billion.

Still, iron ore, coal and natural gas projects and related infrastructure for Australia’s three largest export commodities accounted for over 80% of projected investment.

Tough global conditions and low energy prices have weighed on the development of coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects, which has led to some being deferred. Finance is likely to remain difficult for these projects, the report said.

($1 = 1.3657 Australian dollars)

(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Richard Pullin)

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