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Silicon for solar PV; nickel, lithium, and cobalt for batteries; and rare earth magnets for wind turbines are all key areas of opportunity for value-add manufacturing in Australia. Image courtesy of CSIRO.

CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has suggested Australia should combine its mining and manufacturing sectors to turn a wealth of critical minerals into future economic growth.

As part of CSIRO’s Critical Energy Metals Mission – which aims to unlock the full economic potential of Australia’s energy metals – the agency’s Critical Energy Minerals Roadmap sees Australia removing the need for offshore processing or product creation.

Without the need for outsourcing, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall said Australia can go it alone in the race to satisfy the world’s decarbonisation requirements.

“Australia’s future economic prosperity will depend on how well we can use our vast energy and mineral resources to play to our strengths and create new opportunities through the global transition to net zero emissions,” Marshall said.

“There is a wealth of opportunity in front of us that will only be fully realised by developing a team Australia response.”

The report was co-funded by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ Critical Minerals Facilitation Office and predicted the value of metals needed for key technologies in the clean energy transition to be $5 trillion by 2050.

According to CSIRO’s director mineral resources Jonathan Law, not only would investing in Australia’s critical minerals improve the value of its exports, but it would create jobs and domestic growth.

“Rather than just extracting the minerals and shipping them away to be refined and turned into products, Australia has a real opportunity to operate all the way along the energy value chain, from extraction to processing, separating, refining and manufacturing high-value materials and products,” Law said.

“Connecting our mining and manufacturing sectors can create an investment ecosystem that supports domestic supply chains and resource circularity for our critical minerals.

“The roadmap also demonstrates the economic opportunities that can be harnessed by strategically investing in new critical mineral deposits and processing technologies that reduce cost and environmental footprint.”

CSIRO will look to continue the dialogue around reinvestment in critical energy metals with government and industry alike, Marshall added.

“As Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO is partnering widely across research, industry and government to frame this dialogue and develop an innovation ecosystem to propel us forward,” Marshall said.

“Together, we can extract new value from our mining and manufacturing sectors, and give Australia a competitive advantage in a world undergoing massive change.”