Australia has a major opportunity to contribute to the growing demand for critical minerals by strengthening global supply chains and increasing collaboration at a strategic national level, a panel of international experts has told the opening session of IMARC 2023.
Panellists including leading industry experts from China’s mineral sector and senior United States Department of Energy and Department Defense officials addressed a packed plenary session on Collaboration Between China and Australia Across the Mining Value Chain and Identifying Energy and Supply Chain Solutions with the United States.
Peter Arkell, Chairman of the Global Mining Association of China, probed panellists on the growing importance of critical minerals in the global economy and the pivotal role of nickel in shaping the future of the sector.
Ming Wong, Deputy General Manager of Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt, highlighted the company’s extensive experience in critical minerals, including nickel, which has seen substantial growth due to surging demand driven by battery technology.
“Traditionally, nickel was predominantly utilised in steel production. However, with demand now surging in critical minerals and the burgeoning battery market, nickel’s role has undergone a remarkable transformation. It now constitutes over 10% of the total nickel supplies, a figure projected to surge to nearly 20% in the coming years. This shift has propelled the nickel stream with an impressive year-on-year growth rate of approximately 25%. This trajectory is poised to continue over the next decade, solidifying nickel’s pivotal position in the global minerals landscape,” said Mr. Wong.
Michael Ngo, Chief Commercial Officer of Yancoal Australia, shed light on the company’s substantial contributions to the Australian economy, emphasised its diverse customer base across 13 countries and dispelling misconceptions about target markets.
Mr Ngo said, “We sell to all the traditional markets in Asia such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan, other parts of Southeast Asia and India, China parts of Europe, even South America. So our target customers really depends on the coal that we have. It really depends on the market dynamics and we adjust our strategy accordingly.”
Mark Yumin Qiu, Managing Director & CEO of Hanking Australia, outlined the company’s focus on gold mining and highlighted Australia’s immense potential for gold discoveries, showcasing their remarkable achievements in the industry.
“Australia holds immense potential for gold discoveries, a fact underscored by our team’s remarkable achievements. Over the past three years alone, we’ve uncovered an astounding four million ounces in gold reserves. This highlights Australia’s significance in our global operations.”
Liangang Li, interim CEO of MMG emphasised China’s continued appetite for metals and minerals amidst global economic fluctuations, attributing a significant portion of this demand to the country’s ambitious green energy and decarbonisation initiatives.
Despite Australia’s challenging relations with China over recent years, Mr Li believes Australia remains a trusted partner to do business with and pointed out that MMG remains headquartered in Melbourne.
Mr Li said, ‘We feel the warmth from the people of Australia and in particular, Melbourne. The pipeline of mining innovation and its incredible history provides us with something very special that we cannot access from anywhere else. MMG has offices across the world, but we see Australia as the place to grow and therefore we are continuously seeking more opportunities here.”
US partnerships remain strong despite increasing uncertainty
Giulia Siccardo, Director of the Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains, US Department of Energy and Halimah Najieb-Locke, a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense explained how the United States is open for business and is seeking partners to help transition the world’s largest economy with next-generation equipment and technology. The discussion could not have been more timely, following the Australian Prime Minister’s visit to Washington last week where he announced funding for critical minerals would be doubled from $2 billion to $4 billion.
Ms Siccardo said Mr Albanese’s meeting represented a foundational step towards deeper collaboration between the two countries.
“The meeting last week was certainly much more than symbolic. It was a clear indication that both of our countries are poised to make fully catalytic investments in battery supply chains to critical mineral supply chains.”
Ms Najieb-Locke said the continuation of commitment between both nations highlighted the critical role of minerals in our shared national defence and security programs and the need to ensure supply chains become more resilient.
“Last week’s visit was an opportunity to highlight the ways that we can truly collaborate and increase our cooperation from an international perspective, given the fact that the industry is built on a global supply chain. We have to invest in a strategic manner. We have to build redundant supply chains to ensure that both of our nations can avoid disruptions,” said Ms Najied-Locke.
As the US Presidential election looms just over a year away, both speakers emphasised the enduring bipartisan support for the importance of supply chain resilience and collaboration. Ms Najieb-Locke underscored that this longstanding support, especially with Australia, has been in place for decades.
The panellists urged all attendees to consider how the US can assist with funding in any stage of a company’s product development cycle, no matter where in the world they are based.
Senior Communications Strategist