Just a week after the new Australian Critical Minerals Strategy was announced (see our analysis here), Queensland launched its own Critical Minerals Strategy – and where the Federal Strategy received criticism for its lack of policy levers, Queensland’s iteration has delivered in droves.
On 28 June 2023, at the World Mining Congress in Brisbane, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk took the stage to announce the strategy, which is designed to “unlock the next resources boom in critical minerals”. The strategy builds on the Queensland Resources Industry Development Plan (QRIDP), which provides a 30-year roadmap to ensure Queensland can effectively capitalise on local critical minerals projects, including copper, alumina and rare earth developments. Along with establishing a dedicated government agency to oversee the strategy (Critical Minerals Queensland) there is A$245 million worth of initiatives on offer, including:
A$75 million to establish ‘Critical Minerals Zones’ (commencing with Julia Creek/Richmond vanadium and Mount Isa mine waste)
A$100 million to deliver the ‘Critical Minerals and Battery Technology Fund’, which is designed to provide local industry with access to national and global supply chains
A$5 million to explore remaining mineralisation in mine waste
Rent reduction for exploration, which will recover approximately A$55 million of forgone revenue
A$1 million to profile and promote Queensland to international investors
A$8 million for research and development in circular economy and mining
A$1 million to partner with industry to build ESG intelligence.
These measures supplement existing government proposals under the QRIDP, which include investing in the resources industry workforce and funding critical infrastructure, such as the CopperString 2032 electricity transmission project.
How the Queensland Strategy differs from its Federal counterpart
At a first glance, the policy proposals in the Queensland Strategy appear to be substantially more practical, efficient and targeted towards critical mineral sector growth than the Federal Strategy. For one, the Queensland Strategy is not bound by the constraints of the Australian Critical Minerals List. This means that Queensland can more effectively leverage metals such as copper, which currently lack support at a national level. Other points of contrast include Queensland:
Adopting a regional place-based approach to improve time and resource efficiency, whereas the Federal Strategy primarily targets Northern Australia generally;
Setting out technical measures that focus more on exploration and mining than downstream processing (noting that the Critical Minerals and Battery Technology Fund is directed towards refining and processing, in addition to extraction);
Including measures that look significantly more promising for streamlining approval processes, particularly environmental approvals under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 (Cth); and
Adopting tangible financial incentives, notably the rent reduction for new and existing exploration permits for critical minerals to $0 for five years.
As such, when compared to the Federal Strategy, the Queensland Strategy contains more meaningful economic incentives to pursue sector growth while keeping existing projects operating. However, we also note that a level of generality was likely necessary for the Federal Strategy given the range of mineral deposits, industry resourcing and ESG concerns across different regions in Australia.
What this means for industry players
The Queensland critical minerals sector should seek to maximise existing opportunities, as well as financial and technical support under the Strategy. Exploration and mining projects in particular will benefit from the Critical Mineral Zones approach and the Critical Minerals and Battery Technology Fund. However, companies should be aware that while the strategy offers opportunities for streamlined approval processes, and a more coordinated approach towards projects, the economic risks associated with critical minerals have not been eliminated, only mitigated.
Further, the release of the Queensland Strategy indicates a national trend of critical mineral policy measures. Other states, such as New South Wales, have also released funding and research initiatives for the sector. We anticipate that other regions will follow in Queensland’s footsteps to compensate for the lack of targeted support in the Federal Strategy. The Queensland sector should also prepare for statutory and policy complexities in light of potential interactions between the Strategy and proposed changes to environmental, heritage and renewables legislation.
Subscribe to HSF Mining Notes to receive insights like this direct to your inbox.
To learn more, or to discuss how you might be affected by the above, please contact: