The Australian, Indian, Japanese and US governments are aware of the supply chain risk for critical minerals, and have highlighted their interest in long term solutions.
Determined cooperation in the field of critical minerals presents a historic opportunity for like-minded countries of the Indo-Pacific region and beyond to join hands in realising the great potential that exists in this strategic sector.”
Why are critical minerals and rare earth elements so important?
Critical minerals are metals and nonmetals that have a significant risk of supply disruption, and where such a disruption would have a material impact on industries, economies and/or sovereign security.
Rapid growth and innovation in electronics and low-carbon technologies means many critical minerals are used in the manufacturing of batteries, mobile phones, flat-screen monitors, wind turbines, electric cars and solar panels, and in a multitude of other applications. The metals that are important for transitioning to low-carbon economies are often referred to as ‘clean energy metals’, some of which are also critical minerals.
Report findings and recommendations
Exploration and technology
As a relatively immature industry that historically has been under-appreciated, there’s still a lot of work to do to determine the locations, quantities and qualities of critical minerals in Australia and India. Critical minerals are often more complex to mine and process, usually using waste streams from other mining processes. They also present novel environmental challenges that must be overcome to meet environmental protection standards.
The crucial first step is agreeing on the priority minerals and the projects that will support their production.
Markets and investment
Due to the immaturity of the industry, it’s harder to predict return on investment, particularly when many factors are unknown.
What we do know is that demand in this sector will increase, and without early investment, partnerships and identification of value chain gaps, it will be almost impossible to develop a sustainable and competitive supply chain in the Indo-Pacific region.
There have been many government announcements since 2021 indicating that Australia, India, Japan and the US see the need for better cross-border regulation to enable initiatives that support cross-regional partnerships and trade. However, legislative frameworks like royalties, intellectual property (IP) and other structures still need to be reviewed to manage minerals and REEs within these revised regulations. Governments from the Indo-Pacific region can help by supporting frameworks and resources that build the industry until it can sustain and stabilise itself, similar to other industries in the past.
Critical Minerals International Alliance
The recommendation of these workshops is to develop a Critical Minerals International Alliance (CMIA), with representatives from each participating region with an interest in a supply chain across the Indo-Pacific. Further details about the model and responsibilities are included in this report.