Rare earth minerals

The Federal Government has announced it will provide up to $840 million to help deliver Australia’s first combined rare earths mine and refinery in the Northern Territory, which aims to support the state’s transition to renewables.

The government said the facility will create more than 300 jobs across the Northern Territory and diversify Australia’s critical minerals supply chain. A first of its kind in Australia, the project is a step forward for the rare earths and critical minerals industry.

Rare earths are used to make powerful magnets, and are an essential component in renewable energy and defence technologies. Electric vehicle motors, wind turbines, robotics and mobile phones are examples of the kinds of technologies that rely on rare earths.

The government said the investment is designed to position Australia as a global leader in the ethical and sustainable manufacturing of minerals.

The rare earths mine and refinery will be operated by Australian mineral exploration company Arafura and is to be located 125km north of Alice Springs. 

During construction the project is expected to create more than 200 jobs, with more than 125 full time jobs ongoing, including the company’s stated ambition of securing 20 per cent local Indigenous employment.

The Federal Government has invested a combined total of $11 billion in the expansion of the Critical Minerals Facility, managed by Export Finance Australia, and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

The government said critical minerals are the building blocks for a clean energy future, and its investment in the sector will create jobs and opportunities for more Australians.

Australian Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, said, “My Government is focussed on a future made in Australia, and this project is an important part of that plan. 

“We will deliver critical jobs and economic development in the heart of the Territory and the north.

“This will create local jobs and economic opportunities, helping Australian and Territory companies and workers capture more value from the game-changing critical minerals deposits we have here.

“This project is a major vote of confidence in the Northern Territory, which continues to punch above its weight in global trade.

“The road to net zero runs through Australia’s resources sector and the development of our critical minerals sector will play a key role,” Mr Albanese said.

Federal Minister for Trade and Tourism, Don Farrell, said, “Our Government is committed to unlocking new critical minerals projects to help us become a renewable energy superpower, and create hundreds of local high-paying jobs in the industries of the future.

“We have some of the largest deposits of critical minerals in the world and through this project, we’re encouraging more international partners like the Republic of Korea and Germany to invest in Australia and diversify global supply chains.”

“International buyers and investors are key to developing our abundant critical minerals opportunities, which is why we are also building strong partnerships with major economies,” Mr Farrell said.

Federal Minister for Resources and Minister for Northern Australia, Madeleine King, said, “Australia’s critical minerals will be crucial to the new low-emissions technologies that will help lower emissions and our trading partners to meet their climate goals.

“The combined funding from the Critical Minerals Facility and the NAIF will help Australia build downstream industries and support our goal to become a renewable energy superpower by 2030.

“To meet our net zero targets we will need more mining, not less, to build the solar panels, batteries and wind farms we need to reduce emissions,” Ms King said.

Northern Territory Chief Minister, Eva Lawler, said, “Creating more work opportunities for Territorians now and into the future is the priority of the Territory Labor Government.

“The Commonwealth’s commitment for Arafura’s rare earths mine and refinery will help us achieve that. It will create approximately 200 jobs during construction, and 125 ongoing local jobs in Central Australia.

“Arafura’s project is an example of how this Government is attracting investment into our critical minerals sector that will significantly contribute to the Territory’s role in energy transition and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“Backed by record levels of investment into exploration, the mining and processing of critical minerals is a priority opportunity for the Territory to create more work opportunities for Territorians,” Ms Lawler said.

Northern Territory Minister for Mining, Mark Monaghan, said, “The Northern Territory is on the cusp of an economic boom and we are ensuring Territorians reap the rewards.

“Today’s announcement highlights the importance of the Territory’s critical minerals sector to Australia, a sector which will drive us towards our goal of a $40 billion economy of 2030.

“The Territory has some of the largest deposits of critical minerals in the world, only recently were Graphite and Gallium added to our 17 strong critical minerals list, with the sector highlighting the potential for 12 more critical minerals to be found in the Northern Territory,” Mr Monaghan said.

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