16/11/2022 – Mining / IMARC / Critical / Minerals / Future / Energy / Transition / Australia
IMARC to explore how critical mineral mining can herald a greener future
Global demand for critical minerals is set to usher a new resources boom in Australia, where hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of future-facing minerals such as nickel, lithium, cobalt and manganese lie underfoot. Such resources will be key in the global transition towards renewables, as attendees of the International Mining and Resources Conference (IMARC) will hear in Sydney next week.
Australia is currently the world’s largest supplier of nickel, rutile, tantalum and zircon. Whilst also being within the top five global supplies of cobalt, lithium, copper, antimony, niobium and vanadium. However, Associate Professor Mohan Yellishetty from Monash University believes Australia is only producing a fraction of what is possible.
“The problem has been that there is lack of interest, a lack of public policy and a lack of appetite within the big miners to tap that potential,” he remarked. “However, that is certainly changing. Over the past year there has been a greater focus on the value of future-facing minerals.”
Extracting future value
Notably, the locations of many of these minerals are already extracted from established or finished mine sites, meaning new mines will not need to be built. Assoc. Prof. Yellishetty research has shown that tailings sites are full of critical minerals ready to be processed.
“We now have the technology to filter mine site tailings, clean the environment, and extract valuable critical minerals,” he observed. “There are around 80,000 abandoned mines sites across Australia. Many of them which are holding toxic time bombs that could pollute waterways and communities.”
Allison Britt from Geoscience Australia, the country’s pre-eminent public sector geoscience organisation backs such claims. “We can also look at different levers to support production of critical mineral by-products by companies at their mines, or by reprocessing tailings to recover critical minerals that were of no interest when the mine was created,” Ms. Britt notes. “All these examples have the potential to provide critical minerals with reduced environmental impact.”
These same processes could also revolutionise the repurposing of old industrial sites, such as the heavily polluted site at Melbourne’s Westgate Tunnel project.
Calls for greater investment in future-facing minerals development
Warm Springs Consulting’s, Amber Bieg is calling for greater investment in future-facing mineral development. Her research shows that global production for key minerals such as lithium will soon not meet demand.
“Over the past decade we have seen an exponential increase in the demand for future-facing minerals,” she noted, “and global supply is matching demand.”
The future of resource extraction in Australia can help lead to greener future whilst also helping clean thousands of old mine sites across Australia.
IMARC 2022 runs from 2–4 November at ICC Sydney. Online pre-registration is essential.
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