PM warns of critical mineral monopoly

Scott Morrison’s love for coal has blinded him to revolutionary advances in the long-term storage of green energy. Photo: AAP

Scott Morrison’s love for coal has blinded him to revolutionary advances in the long-term storage of green energy. Photo: AAP Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says it is not in the world’s interest to have minerals critical to renewable energy and new technologies held largely in the hands of one global player.

Mr Morrison on Thursday addressed an APEC CEO forum hosted by New Zealand in the run-up to this week’s regional leaders’ summit.

China is the world’s biggest producer of rare earth minerals used in technologies such as solar panels, computers and mobile phones.

“The critical minerals and rare earths supply chain and what it feeds into with new energy technologies … is very dependent on largely one supplier which has the ability to apply a lot of monopolistic power to prevent other supply chains being developed,” Mr Morrison said.

“Australia feels very strongly about ensuring that alternative supply chains around rare earths and critical minerals can be developed and support whole new lists of customers that operate at various points down the chain.

“This is something we have been championing through the Quad.”

China has been critical of the Quad – which also involves Japan, India and the US – as well as the creation of the new AUKUS pact between Australia, the US and UK.

Earlier at the same APEC meeting, Chinese President Xi Jinping warned the Asia-Pacific region must not return to the tensions of the Cold War era.

He also said China’s emission-reduction plans are likely to present “huge market opportunities” in coming years, and invited businesses in the region to join his country in this endeavour.

Mr Xi said attempts to draw ideological lines or form small circles on geopolitical grounds were bound to fail.

“The Asia-Pacific region cannot and should not relapse into the confrontation and division of the Cold War era,” Mr Xi said.

He is expected to hold a virtual meeting with US President Joe Biden as soon as next week.

This weekend’s APEC meeting is being chaired online by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

“APEC’s focus remains on the regional response and recovery from COVID-19,” she said.

“Together we are continuing to keep supply chains functioning and are supporting trade in critical medical supplies – including testing kits, PPE and now vaccines.”

The leaders will also discuss the global push to cut carbon emissions, as the COP26 summit wraps up in Glasgow.

APEC is responsible for more than 60 per cent of global economic output, accounts for 47 per cent of world trade and is home to 38 per cent of the world’s population.


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