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Australia’s top lithium supplier selective about invest in its growing critical minerals industry

Australia‘s top lithium supplier is poised to be more selective about who it lets invest in its growing critical minerals industry, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said on Friday. Australia, a major supplier of minerals key to the energy transition, such as rare earths, has more to gain by supporting investment from allies to build its mineral processing industry, Chalmers told a conference in Sydney.

“Foreign investment is a good thing when it is in our national interest,” Chalmers said. “But as investment interest grows, and as the sources of that investment interest grow, we will need to be more assertive about supporting investments that are clearly aligned with our national interests over the long term.”

The Labor government, which took power in May, is backing Australia’s policy to build a critical supply chain for mineral processing. Federal investment has already flowed into Iluka Resources’ rare earths processing plant in central Australia. A further A$1 billion ($676 million) is available for “added value” in resources under the national recovery fund, which is also linked to A$2 billion of critical mineral facilities.

The strategy will provide friendly nations with an alternative at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has highlighted the strategic risks of being a dominant supplier, Chalmers said. “To put it as simply as possible – our international friends need someone to rely on, so let’s let them rely on us,” he said. Australia is revising its critical minerals strategy and positioning itself as a green superpower, fueled by its mineral subsidies. It signed a Critical Minerals Partnership with Japan in October, and its economic strategy for Southeast Asia to 2040 will include a focus on resources, energy and the green economy, Chalmers said.

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