Critical minerals driving net zero even as prices dip

The road to net zero may be “paved by Australia’s critical minerals” but the value of exports is forecast to fall from a record high over the next two years.

Surging global sales of electric vehicles are continuing to drive increased demand for battery metals, according to official data released on Tuesday.

Australia is a leading exporter of battery minerals such as lithium, cobalt, copper and nickel and remains a top exporter of iron ore, coal and liquefied natural gas (LNG).

“Demand for Australia minerals is growing as the world works to build the technology needed to decarbonise,” Resources Minister Madeleine King said.

“The road to net zero is paved by Australia’s critical minerals.”

But the September 2023 Resources and Energy Quarterly showed global prices for most major resources and energy commodities have fallen over the past three months and will slide further.

Australia’s lithium exports are forecast to fall from a record $20 billion in 2022/23 to $18 billion this year and $16 billion in 2024/25.

Earnings from metallurgical coal, used for steel making, are also expected to cool, and thermal coal that is burned to make electricity will take a steeper plunge with earnings slashed.

Iron ore and gas export earnings will also take a hit amid uncertain global economic conditions.

Oil and gas industry body chief Samantha McCulloch has called for less red and green tape so companies can invest in new gas supply, with households and industry expected to be relying on the gas “safety net” for decades.

“Our LNG exports can also help importing nations lower emissions by switching to gas,” Ms McCulloch said.

Qatar and the US have increased output and cemented their position in the market, and Australia should not miss out, she said.

A consultation paper has been released by the federal government to map a strategy for the changing role of gas.

The Future Gas Strategy will provide a medium (to 2035) and long-term (to 2050) plan for gas production and consumption as the world decarbonises.

“We need to ensure gas demand decreases faster than supply through the energy transition,” Ms King said.

“Gas shortages, supply disruptions and high prices are among the consequences of reducing supply faster than demand.”

Producers and distributors, domestic and international users, LNG import terminal project proponents and the general public have been invited to have their say.

The gas strategy is due to be finalised next year.


Marion Rae
(Australian Associated Press)


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