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Today, Jubilee Australia Research Centre has responded to the federal government’s Critical Minerals Strategy 2023 – 2030. Critical minerals include resources used for the production of renewable energy technologies – such as solar panels or batteries, rendering it an important policy area in the energy and economic transition from fossil fuels.

“The government strategy rightly discusses the market advantages of Australia being perceived as an ethical supplier of transition minerals. However, it falls far short of putting this in practice” noted Dr. Luke Fletcher, Executive Director and lead author of the recent Greenlight or Gaslight report examining Australia’s critical minerals policy.

“On the positive side, we see government acknowledging the importance of investing in a circular economy. We agree that battery recycling and other re-use of transition minerals is economic and environmental common sense – and we would like to see Australia be a leading innovator in this field.

“However, it is alarming that the government has lifted its demand projections from industry itself. It is clear the fossil fuel-based economy is being surpassed and that transition minerals have an important role to play in our future. However, we’re sceptical that flooding the market is the right approach environmentally, socially, or economically. These flawed assumptions are the heart of the problem.” The issue of demand projections is also discussed in Greenlight or Gaslight.

“Fundamental to building a strong Critical Minerals Strategy is ensuring that it’s evidence-led and not based on problematic demand projections.

“The Critical Minerals Strategy references plans to facilitate ‘fast and efficient approvals for strategically significant minerals.’ We are worried this signals that government may be willing to cut corners on vital issues such as biodiversity protections” said Dr. Fletcher. “It is also disappointing to see Australia’s business and human rights governance unmentioned in the strategy.”

Although the strategy discusses engagement with First Nations’ peoples, its approach fails to align with the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent as outlined in international law on Indigenous Peoples’ rights.

On mining law, while the strategy indicates the importance of working with states and territories, it fails to tackle head on the need for state and territory reforms. “Reforming state laws on mining must be a central pillar of any significant improvement in this policy space” said Dr. Fletcher.

Australia’s effort to influence international energy diplomacy on critical minerals is discussed in the strategy but it is silent on how this will relate to international biodiversity and climate frameworks.

“The energy transition could present a large economic opportunity for Australia,” said Dr. Fletcher “however, extracting transition minerals will cause significant social and environmental damage if we do not manage it correctly.”

“The climate crisis requires urgent solutions, but we risk replicating the mistakes made with fossil fuel extraction unless we implement smarter regulations.”

“We can’t solve one crisis by creating another” said Dr. Fletcher.

Jubilee Australia Research Centre will continue to advocate for evidence-based policy and improvements across Australia’s transition minerals policy landscape.