Geologists mining

The Western Australian Government has announced it will commit $40 million to accelerate critical minerals exploration in the state, through its Sustainable Geoscience Investments package.

The government said the package, included in the 2023-24 State Budget, will ensure Western Australia is able to grasp economic opportunities as the world works towards a net zero future.

It also addresses the ever-increasing demand for critical minerals used in technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage and solar panels.

The $40 million investment aims to build on successes to date and to accelerate resource discoveries in Western Australia, with initiatives including:

  • A $16.1 million boost to the Exploration Incentive Scheme to increase greenfield exploration and create a new Geophysical Co-funding Program (GCP). The GCP will support better decision-making around land use by excluding ground that shows little or no prospectivity
  • $6.7 million for an Industry Ready Program (IRP) to create data analytics packages for key regions and commodities. The IRP will also sponsor up to three graduates per year to boost their skills by working at the Geological Survey of Western Australia
  • $6.2 million for magnetotelluric data acquisition to enable more targeted exploration. This data will be particularly powerful when combined with the passive seismic data being collected through the McGowan Government’s ongoing WA Array project
  • A $4 million boost to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia to expand research and innovation in net zero and waste reduction projects
  • $3.3 million to update and optimise core libraries in Carlisle and Kalgoorlie, including new bionic lifting equipment
  • $3.7 million to redevelop and improve many of the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety’s (DMIRS) online data services

The Sustainable Geoscience Investments package will also build on other initiatives to facilitate green energy projects, such as the Green Energy Assessment Unit, Future Battery Industry Strategy, Diversification Leases for large scale renewable energy projects, and sustained investment in hydrogen. 

Since the mid-2010s, Western Australia has attracted more than $9 billion of investment for a range of battery and critical minerals projects, including the establishment of globally significant mineral processing facilities.

Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, said, “The transition to clean energy represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for WA as economies around the world seek to secure their critical minerals supply chains.

“No other Australian state comes close to matching our commitment to minerals and energy exploration, and WA continues to lead the pack by some distance.

“This major investment into geoscience builds on the strong foundation of our world-leading resources sector, paving the way for growth in a low-carbon future.

“Our 2023-24 State Budget delivers on the WA Jobs Plan, helping to diversify the WA economy and create new jobs into the future.”

Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister, Bill Johnston, said, “Accelerating exploration activity is crucial to our State’s future economic success, and I am confident this funding will help the industry unearth WA’s next big discovery.

“We need to keep providing high-quality data for resource exploration to help maintain our global reputation as a proven investment partner.

“WA competes with several other jurisdictions to attract exploration investment so the McGowan Government will continue to support programs that provide our State with competitive advantages in this area.

“WA’s resources sector delivered a record $231 billion of sales in 2021-22, and the bedrock of this success was the hard work put in by minerals exploration companies.”

The Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia (CME) has welcomed the government’s commitment to invest in critical minerals exploration.

CME Chief Executive Officer, Rebecca Tomkinson, said the package will help support the essential role that the Western Australia resources sector is playing in both the state and the globe’s zero emissions future. 

“Western Australia’s resources sector provides the foundation for the innovation and development of the future technologies that aim to make our lives and our workplaces safer, smarter and cleaner.  

“There is enormous opportunity for Western Australia to have a world-leading, sustainable, value-adding critical minerals sector. 

“As highlighted in the pre-budget submission of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, incentivising the development of the critical and battery materials industry is essential to ensure we are in the best possible position to continue to deliver these commodities to the world’s renewable technology manufacturers. 

“Our state is always stronger when industry and government work constructively together. We welcome the McGowan Government for its commitment to further advancing WA’s critical minerals industry, ensuring we continue to be a leading supplier of these commodities that are essential for a net zero future.” 

Western Australia currently accounts for half of global lithium production and is a major exporter of nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earth elements.

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