On the table: we’ve got the natural resources, are we doing what we need to do to bring it home?
Dr Peter Mayfield, CSIRO’s Executive Director of Environment, Energy and Resources, delivered a thoughtful keynote at the event, ‘Harnessing critical minerals to accelerate Australia as a renewable energy powerhouse’, which was followed by an insightful discussion with Tania Constable, CEO of the Minerals Council of Australia, Dr Chris Vernon, CSIRO’s Critical Minerals Lead, Anthea Long, Head of Division, Minerals and Resources, Australian Department of Industry, Science and Resources and BHP’s Global Practice Lead, Kerry Turnock.
In March 2023, CSIRO released its Renewable Energy Storage Roadmap.
“It maps the mature energy storage technologies that can be deployed today, and those requiring further development to achieve Australia’s net-zero objectives,” said Dr Mayfield.
“It reinforces that renewable energy storage is essential to secure a reliable, affordable energy future. Not surprisingly, large investments will be required to reach net zero.”
As Dr Mayfield said, critical minerals will underpin that storage push. The opportunity for Australia is that the world needs those minerals, and we have them.
“Without additional critical minerals supply we will certainly struggle to feed the downstream processes … needed for the energy transformation,” said Dr Mayfield.
CSIRO’s Dr Rob Hough, Director of the agency’s Mineral Resources Business Unit, facilitated the lively panel discussion with some great questions from the audience.
Quotes from the panel
Between CSIRO and Geoscience Australia, we’ve got the right science capabilities… The supply chains to meet our ambition will take time. We’ve got significant challenges – we need to bring our heads together.
There’s a moment of truth for Australia: We can't keep saying we’re going to meet these targets, it’s not going to happen.
We need to say, ‘We’re going to get this far on our electricity transmission task, and then we’ll keep going as fast as we can."
Then the public can understand what they can expect to see on the ground and how much it’s going to cost.
I echo the sentiment around how quickly can we do this... We know it’s a very long runway [to transition] and it’s a really short runway we need to take to decarbonisation.
If we do it right, maybe we will succeed.
One of the things that bothers me is the almighty rush and the lack of coordination.
It’s very important to join the dots [between Federal and States and global supply chains] to do it in the most efficient way.
If we get this right, Australia could be the greenest place on earth to dig up and process critical minerals.
It is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
The Australian Government’s new Critical Minerals Strategy presents a vision for Australia by 2030 to have grown the geostrategic and economic benefits of our critical minerals sector to be a globally significant producer of raw and processed critical minerals, and to support diverse resilient and sustainable supply chains.
That international strategy identifies developing international partnerships to achieve that ambition.
We can’t do this alone – we have to grasp the opportunity around collaboration, bringing together industry, academic and research fields and legislators and doing that domestically and internationally.
From a geoscientific perspective, the deposits that we are mining are deeper and far more complex, and are showing lower-grade profiles. We’re not mining what we’ve mined in the past.
We're not unlocking the mineral resources that were found in the past.
We can’t take that adage of past performance equals future performance.
We need to step back and look at those deeper and often lower-grade deposits and [ask] what it’s going to take to unlock them across the entire supply chain.