Critical minerals sector gets multimillion loans boost

Anthony Albanese is expected in Gladstone to tout Labor's backing for the critical minerals sector.

Anthony Albanese is expected in Gladstone to tout Labor's backing for the critical minerals sector. Photo: AAP

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is downplaying concerns a multimillion-dollar loan to boost the critical minerals sector will mean jobs in the industry become reliant on government funds.

The nation’s first high-purity alumina processing facility will be established in Queensland after Labor earmarked $400 million in loans to Australian company Alpha HPA.

The project, which is expected to created 490 jobs during construction and a further 200 upon completion, will allow Australia to process alumina, commonly used in electric car batteries and superconductors.

The announcement comes after Albanese detailed his Future Made in Australia plan to promote local manufacturing and safeguard the nation’s control over resources and critical minerals.

Speaking ahead of the project’s unveiling in central Queensland, Albanese said the project would allow the industry to grow. He said the investment did not mean government investment would be the only way for permanent jobs in the industry.

“This is an investment by government in the confidence that we have about Australia to grow,” he told ABC Radio on Wednesday.

“It will place Australia as one of the main non-HPA suppliers, that have been overwhelmingly [coming] from China. It will be a really exciting process.”

The Future Made in Australia plan has been criticised by business groups, who warn industries will be propped up by financial support from the government and taxpayers.

But Albanese said the investment would mean Australia could boost projects at home.

“We need to make sure that we … take advantage of our position as a supplier of critical minerals and value add wherever we can, rather than the alternative which is just to export,” he said.

“This is a good example of the government working with the private sector to really benefit jobs and our economy, but as well boost the things that are important as we shift to clean, reliable energy.”

The government has also conditionally approved $185 million for Renascor Resources to help fast-track stage one of its Siviour Graphite Project in South Australia to deliver purified graphite – also used in lithium-ion batteries required for renewable technologies.

Stage one of the project will create 150 construction jobs and 125 jobs once operational in Arno Bay on the Eyre Peninsula. The second stage is expected to create a further 225 construction jobs and more than 120 positions once it’s operational in Bolivar, near Port Adelaide.

Resources Minister Madeleine King said the projects would help diversify global supply chains and lower emissions around the world.

“The road to net zero runs through Australia’s resources sector,” she said.

“Australia’s critical minerals and rare earths are key to building renewable technologies such solar panels, batteries and wind farms, as well as defence and medical technologies.”

The federal government’s manufacturing push has been likened to the Inflation Reduction Act in the US, which provides US$624 billion ($973 billion) worth of funding to accelerate America’s transition to net-zero emissions.

Topics: Mining
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