We cannot let opportunity ‘pack its bags’

Commentary by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie courtesy of the West Australian.

Here we are, once again, on the cusp of another resources boom.

This time, it’s critical minerals and rare earths used in battery production. The world needs them and we have them in abundance.

It’s a position that WA has been fortunate enough to have been in before. We’ve ridden previous resources waves and reaped the benefits. But we cannot get complacent.

As Minerals Council of Australia chief executive officer Tania Constable writes in an opinion piece in today’s newspaper, Australia cannot afford to simply sit back and expect the riches to flow.

We must make the most of this incredible opportunity we have to lead the net zero revolution and become a clean energy superpower.

And it is an incredible opportunity. Export earnings from lithium are projected to reach $17 billion in 2024 — a tenfold increase from just two years ago. That, of course, is in addition to the obvious advantages of neutralising the existential threat posed by climate change.

No other State or Territory has the natural advantages we have to be at the vanguard of this revolution. We must not take it for granted.

That means getting policy settings right in the areas of industrial relations, approval processes and taxation, to encourage investment, not dampen it.

It means ensuring Australian companies are able to compete on the global stage.

It means encouraging young people to take up jobs in the resources sector, providing the industry with the human capital it needs. Otherwise, we risk being left behind.

“At a time when we need more investment to unlock the nation’s vast critical minerals potential, Australia’s investment environment is deteriorating at speed,” Ms Constable warns.

“And the real danger here is that despite boasting one of the biggest endowments of critical minerals in the world, we will cede our advantage to other nations; nations which are creating the right environment to attract investment, nations where the risk of political intervention is benign.

“And alarmingly, nations whose environmental records and climate ambitions are sub par. Opportunity will simply get up, pack its bags and head overseas.”

It’s a message our leaders say they are heeding. And today, at Seven West Media’s Resources Technology Showcase conference, Premier Mark McGowan is set to unveil a new $40 million investment package to boost discoveries of critical minerals.

It will funnel $16 million towards an exploration incentive scheme and more into data analytics packages which will mean exploration efforts are focused on the right places first time. That comes just as the UK and Australia are poised to sign a new critical minerals investment deal.

These are positive steps.

But as ever, more can be done.

As Ms Constable writes, when the resources industry is allowed to succeed, we all benefit.

And if it suffers, so do we all.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie