The next step in the state government’s future battery industry strategy will be to develop a new strategy.
The long-awaited document was launched by Premier Mark McGowan and Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston at the Tianqi Kwinana lithium hydroxide plant on Thursday following months of consultation with industry.
The 20-page strategy outlines objectives including improving awareness of WA’s battery material prowess and improving competitiveness of the industry.
It also suggested expanding the range of battery minerals extracted and processed in WA, increasing the scale of the supply chain and increasing battery research and development in the state.
Those objectives have been boiled down to ‘action themes’. One of the first actions the strategy calls for is to develop another strategy.
This new “investment attraction strategy” will be aimed at building relationships with investors and manufacturers in battery and electric vehicle supply chains.
Red tape will be cut and used as carpet as the government hopes to make approvals processes easier, reduce costs for companies and build skills bases needed for new mining and battery material processing projects.
Battery research and development will be supported by the government’s $6 million bid to host a national battery industries cooperative research centre or a state-based centre if the federal centre falls through.
Other steps outlined included filling current and future skill gaps and facilitating access to infrastructure and funding for technology small to medium enterprises.
Northern Minerals chief executive George Bauk spoke at the launch and said having the government behind the industry would be great help in moving further down the battery supply chain.
“It’s taken us 60 years to build the iron ore industry and petroleum industry but we’re building the critical metals space so much quicker,” he said.
“It’s so important to have the government behind industry when you go around looking for investment.
“It’s important to have the right frameworks in place that foreign countries can see the positive aspects of a stable environment to invest in.
“We’ve got great environmental processes and practices here which is critical because we’re competing against groups that don’t play fair in terms of the way they extract and produce their products”
Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin has previously called for the federal government to revise its changes to the research and development tax incentive for the mining sector and was encouraged by the state’s commitment.
“I think quite frankly it’s a step in the right direction and it’s pulling the state and feds into line,” he said.
“They are addressing some of the things that have been of critical importance to the industry.
“They have made a statement to say they will work with the federal government to promote R&D and one would imagine they will review the current research policy.”
The strategy outlined the fortunate situation the state had found itself in, being the world’s largest producer of lithium and a leading producer of other battery metals including nickel, cobalt and rare earths.
Mr McGowan said the strategy would drive the development of the WA battery materials industry which would create local jobs, contribute to skills development and economic diversification, and maximise benefits to regional communities.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Western Australia to be recognised as a world-leading producer and exporter of future battery materials, technologies and expertise, with huge potential for industry growth and job creation across the battery value chain,” he said.
Industry groups welcomed the strategy.
Association of Mining and Exploration Companies chief executive Warren Pearce said now was the time to act.
“The delivery of this strategy is timely, the lithium battery value chain for batteries is still being formed,” he said.
“The government needs to step up and deliver quickly, so Western Australia can position itself as a key player and realise a greater return for our minerals through further domestic value adding.”
Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA chief executive Chris Rodwell said the government had recognised WA’s place in a much wider, complex global value chain.
“This will establish a solid foundation for industry to move further down the supply chain through its focus on securing and building upon our competitive advantages to attract investment and ensuring the state is investment-ready,” he said.