CSIRO: Australia’s minerals key to renewable powerhouse potential

Wind turbines and solar panels (record high)

New research from CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, has revealed a bright new future for Australia’s critical mineral resources. 

The research shows how our mining and manufacturing sectors can work together to turn critical minerals resources such as lithium and silicon into much-needed products for renewable energy, like electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines.

With the global transition to renewable energy, the Critical Energy Minerals Roadmap found significant potential for Australia to reshape its mining sector to capitalise on the opportunity, as a nation rich in these essential mineral resources, and turn them into high purity materials and products through refining and manufacturing.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the global demand for renewable energy technologies would mean the future global economy would be underpinned by critical energy minerals. 

“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,” Dr Marshall said.

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

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The report, co-funded by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ Critical Minerals Facilitation Office, examines the renewable energy technologies expected to undergo accelerated growth over the coming decades and assesses Australia’s potential to derive value from minerals needed to manufacture these technologies. 

It also considers Australia’s comparative strengths along each of the technology supply chains to help guide investment in local manufacturing.

The Roadmap estimates the metal value of the energy transition’s top technologies to reach more than AUD$5 trillion dollars globally by 2050, over half of that being battery metals, with  greater value potential for manufacturing products like cathodes for batteries or polysilicon for solar PV cells.

CSIRO’s Director Mineral Resources Jonathan Law said Australia could significantly increase the value of its mineral exports, enable more local manufacturing and strengthen global supply chains.

“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,” Mr Law said.

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“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 developed the roadmap as part of a broader piece of research critical minerals resources, through its developing Critical Energy Metals Mission.

It is part of the CSIRO Missions program launched last year. Missions are large scale research programs aimed at solving some of our greatest challenges, collaboratively with government, academia, industry and community.