The Australian Government has announced new financing measures for its rare earths and critical minerals sector.

Projects that boost Australia’s ability to extract and process minerals will now be eligible for financial support through Export Finance Australia (EFA), with changes being made to allow projects to access dual funding through the EFA and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).

These projects include areas of the critical minerals sector that supply defence end-use applications, with these projects being eligible for a third source of funding through the Defence Export Facility.

Minister for resources and Northern Australia Matt Canavan said: “We are determined to develop our rare earth and critical mineral assets for the benefit of Australia and our technology-driven industries.

“By allowing proponents to secure financing through both EFA and the NAIF, we are enhancing opportunities for our critical mineral sector. This opens up new opportunities in trade and manufacturing, creating jobs of the future for thousands of Australians.

“With the increasing global uptake of electric vehicles, smart phones and renewable energy, Australia is well placed to become an international powerhouse to supply critical minerals, and the Government is committed to developing world-leading projects which could help supply global markets.”

The government also plans to open a dedicated project facilitation office within the Department of Industry, and will commit A$4.5m to fund critical minerals research by Commonwealth scientific agencies.

Minister for trade, tourism and investment Simon Birmingham said: “Australia has world-leading reserves of critical minerals that present commercial opportunities for our businesses, as well as job creation potential in regional Australia=.

“With critical minerals essential to much of the innovation and technological development in industries such as defence, space, energy and advanced manufacturing, there are real opportunities for Australia to play a bigger role.

“This intensive focus across government could provide many critical minerals projects with access to advice or opportunities that helps to kick-start their operations and create export outcomes.”

The Australian Government’s latest financing measures for the critical minerals sector (which has rare earth oxide reserves of around 2.8 million tonnes) build upon a number of investments made in the sector over 2019, including the development of a National Resources Statement in February 2019, as well as the development of a Critical Minerals Strategy and the preparation of a Critical Minerals Investment Prospectus in March 2019.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also made an agreement with US President Donald Trump in September 2019 to develop a US-Australia Action Plan for Critical Minerals Cooperation, to support investment, research and development and diversity in critical minerals supply chains.

Canavan will meet with his counterparts in the US on 14 November 2019 to build further support for international collaboration on critical mineral supply chains.