New finance options for rare earths mines

Matt Canavan says there is the potential for thousands of jobs digging up rare earth and minerals.
Matt Canavan says there is the potential for thousands of jobs digging up rare earth and minerals.

Miners looking at digging up the rare earths and critical minerals needed for many modern technologies could get double the help from taxpayers as the federal government looks to expand the market opportunities.

Projects will now be able to get support from Export Finance Australia, including its defence branch, and the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility if they meet the criteria.

Resources Minister Matt Canavan says there is potential for thousands of jobs to be created.

"Today more products rely on the use of minerals that start, often in this country, under the ground than ever before," he told reporters in Canberra on Thursday.

Electric cars used between one and three kilograms of rare earths and 10-20kg of cobalt, while a wind turbine uses some 500-700kg, mainly in magnets, he said.

"And in the mobile phone that I see right in front of me here, there's about 26 minerals and metals in that small little device."

Australia and the United States are teaming up to develop the sector in a bid to counter China's near-stranglehold on supply of the vital minerals.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said the government had been working carefully and steadily to build the market's potential.

"This is a sector where there is booming and growing demand for key resources, resources of which Australia has an abundance of supply ... but where there is an element of market failure," he told reporters.

Senator Canavan is headed to the United States where he will be "talking turkey" with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross about how to get projects nearly ready over the line.

Queensland Resources Council head Ian Macfarlane will join the minister on that trip, saying the state can be at the forefront of the emerging sector in Australia.

"New investments will also mean new jobs and opportunities for regional Queensland," he said in a statement.

Australian Associated Press