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The Victorian Budget for 2024-25 has been released and while industry has welcomed funding to the mining and resources sector, it has called for more support for critical minerals in the state.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) Victoria’s Executive Director, James Sorahan, said that the Budget provides some positive developments for the state’s minerals industry, but that it continues to be marred by tax uncertainty that will prove costly for Victoria.

Mr Sorahan said that investment in geoscience data and further facilitation provides important support for untapped resources in Victoria, including gold, mineral sands, rare earths and base metals like copper.

MCA noted the absence of funding for the critical minerals grants program that was announced in the 2022 Budget and championed by MCA Victoria.

Mr Sorahan said that modest grants for exploration, research and innovative technologies are essential to ensure Victoria capitalises on opportunities to integrate into renewable energy and high-tech supply chains.

“The government’s Melbourne-centric approach to economic policy is failing to deliver, leaving Victoria and its regional areas disadvantaged. Without diversifying and fostering new industries across the regions, Victoria cannot overcome its substantial debt challenges.

“Victorian mining and exploration is making a major contribution to regional development, with potential for much more. Prioritising mining is vital for Victoria to secure a robust revenue stream to support community services, infrastructure, and to create well-paying, full-time jobs in rural areas.”

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies’ (AMEC) CEO, Warren Pearce, said, “Today’s 2024-25 Victorian Budget makes no changes to the existing royalties scheme and no increases in fees and charges for miners and explorers, but there remains a lack of clarity around the state’s critical minerals ambitions and objectives.

“With $44.7 million in new sector funding, this budget builds on 2023’s $23.3 million for the Victorian resources industry to continue building regulator capability and approvals capacity and efficiency, along with ensuring delivery of its regulatory reform amendments.”

Mr Pearce said that while this should help government be more efficient, AMEC would like to see more support for critical minerals, pointing to the recent quarterly Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Mineral Exploration Expenditure Data (December Quarter 2023) which showed that exploration spend in Victoria continued to fall to its lowest level since September 2019.

“While royalty income remains largely unchanged from previous budget forward estimates with $576 million forecast through to 2027-28, this downward trajectory in investment is not indicative of a robust industry, nor is it sustainable at this level of decline.” 

Mr Pearce said the State Government must prioritise developing its critical minerals strategy. 

“Unlike most other jurisdictions in Australia, Victoria has yet to outline a prescriptive critical minerals strategy, despite having a considerable mineral endowment including antimony, lithium, copper, tungsten, tin and mineral sands (including rare earth elements).”

Mr Pearce pointed to the $4 billion Federal Government fund that has already identified projects in the Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland and said that Victoria is at risk of being left behind in the race to decarbonise its economy.

“Mining and mineral exploration is a core industry in the state with a committed rural presence, and despite many ongoing challenges, the local minerals industry continues to survive, but not thrive.

“With long timelines to project realisation and profitability, the government needs to do everything in its power to assist in approving new projects that create new jobs, including the fast-tracking of critical minerals opportunities, that will in-turn benefit local communities, including Traditional Owners.”

Image credit: RomanR/Shutterstock.com.

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