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Earlier this week, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced a $2 billion increase to the Critical Minerals Facility, rounding up its total to $4 billion. But how have various mining companies and resources representatives reacted?

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) welcomed the funding, but has asked for a collaborative approach to be taken when removing barriers to bring projects online through a material reduction in approval timeframes.

CME chief executive officer Rebecca Tomkinson said the investment will strengthen WA’s reputation as a world-leading critical and battery minerals producer.

“Australia is a high-cost environment by international comparison, and state and federal policy initiatives and financial support are essential to ensure Australia is well positioned to meet the global demand for our critical and battery minerals to support the transition to net zero,” she said.

“With a rich natural endowment and strong environmental and social governance credentials, WA’s mining and resources sector can and should be a pivotal player in Australia’s sovereign and economic decarbonisation ambitions.”

Tomkinson said one of the greatest impediments to large-scale projects is the approvals process.

“We believe the reduction of timeframes can and must co-occur while ensuring our regulations meet the highest ESG (environmental, social and governance) standards,” she said.

“Collaboration between all tiers of government is needed to address project development bottlenecks, enhance our state’s attractiveness as an investment destination, and fully realise WA’s potential in the global critical minerals supply chain.”

Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Western Australia (CCIWA) chief economist Aaron Morey told the Australian Financial Review (AFR) that the chamber also welcomed the Federal Government’s funding, but warned that it may lead to little without reasonable environmental approval processes.

“The government’s extra commitment for critical minerals is welcome, but will count for nothing if projects get tied up in years of pointless green tape. We’ll be all dressed up with nowhere to go,” Morey told AFR.

“While we can’t compete with the scale of subsidies on offer in the US, what we do have within our power is to make our approval system as efficient as possible.”

The Federal Government will soon begin consulting on the detail of new ‘nature positive’ environment laws, which aim to deliver better environmental protection and to speed up decision-making.

The CCIWA believes that all industry reforms should face proper consultation, especially by WA’s resources sector.

“Australia – and WA in particular – is in the box seat to capitalise on the green energy revolution, through our rich deposits of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt and rare earths, which will power the transition to net-zero,” Morey told AFR.

“Under these proposed changes, there’s a real risk that many of those minerals will stay in the ground because the cost and complexity of extracting them in Australia is too high.”

Global Lithium, a pre-revenue mining company, has urged the Federal Government to not invest the $2 billion Critical Minerals Facility increase in established mining companies that are already “printing money”.

“The companies facing the biggest challenges are the next wave of producers or developers and they should at least be getting a pro rata share of that fund because they are the ones that are most vulnerable in terms of project delivery,” Global Lithium managing director Ron Mitchell told AFR.

“If you keep propping up the big guys, that just doesn’t make any sense to me. It just creates an oligopoly, which is counterintuitive to our ambition of creating more jobs and getting more critical minerals projects developed.”

Group 6 Metals chief executive officer Keith McKnight wants the Federal Government’s funding to be spread broadly.

“I don’t think we can neglect the pipeline of projects,” he told AFR. “Projects that are showing a pathway to development, those projects I believe should be supported as well; (the Dolphin tungsten mine was) one of those projects only a short couple of years ago.”

The $2 billion expansion of the Critical Minerals Facility brings the Federal Government’s investment in the Australian resources sector to $6 billion.

Albanese and Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King first announced the investment after the inaugural meeting of the Australia-United States Taskforce on Critical Minerals.

“The increase in the Critical Minerals Facility will enable more projects to get off the ground … and we need all shoulders to the wheel to make sure that they happen for Australia to decarbonise the economy, but also to make sure the rest of the world can get to net zero,” King said.