ANALYSIS | Key critical minerals projects: A $10bn investment pipeline in onshore refining

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Reports and Analysis  |   Tim Buckley  |  Oct 10, 2022

ANALYSIS | Key critical minerals projects: A $10bn investment pipeline in onshore refining

Australia has the potential to be a Critical Minerals Mining and Refining Superpower, providing world-scale secure supply of critical inputs to the global energy transition. Many refining projects are very energy intensive, providing a further opportunity for Australia to accelerate global decarbonisation by leveraging our vast, largely untapped low-cost renewable energy resources to power onshore refining and value-add pre-export.

In 2021 Climate Energy Finance provided expert advice into the BCA / ACTU / ACF / WWF‘s Accenture report “Sunshot: Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs”.[1] At the time, “clean exports” was a largely hypothetical exercise; the investment flows had yet to materialise, and our then-government refused to even accept the climate science, let alone the inevitability of the energy transition, including the global pivot to electric vehicles (EVs) – essentially batteries on wheels, requiring a massive upscaling in mining and refining of lithium. A year later global EV sales are on track to double to over 10m in 2022, we have the Climate Change Bill 2022 and Australia has now exported its first shipment of battery grade, refined lithium hydroxide (LHM), the precursor for battery cathodes.

This is just one example of the accelerating momentum behind this shift. Capital flows are accelerating. We have identified over $10bn of investment proposals in resource value-adding across Australia. Several are in production already and a number have moved beyond final investment decision (FID) and are under construction.

In this note we review eight value-adding refining projects in lithium, rare earths, nickel, copper, green zinc and premium, high iron content iron ore for high-efficiency steelmaking.

[1] Business Council of Australia, Sunshot: Australia’s opportunity to create 395,000 clean export jobs, 14 October 2021