Locking Up Australia’s High-Tech Mineral Security: Is Thinking Long-Term Good or Bad?

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The country has taken considerations to lock-up mineral reserves for the future of its citizens.

Australia is rich in Critical minerals like nickel, cobalt, and manganese. Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) mentioned, “The statistics are that Australia might have something like 20% of the world’s supply of rare earths… that could go up quite considerably, once we start looking at some of these other deposits.”

The country is the mass producer of rare earths like neodymium, gadolinium, and ytterbium, which are used in many tech products. Batteries, magnets, MRI machines, mobile phones, and COVID test kits need rare earths to be manufactured.

However, Australia is planning to lock up the said mineral resources from the use of other countries. The government is okay with foreign investments as they can help boost the country’s economy. Yet, in terms of thinking for a long time, keeping Australia’s natural resources when SHTF is in the future will also mean economic security for its people.

“Foreign investment is a good thing when it’s in our national interest. But as investment interest grows, and as the sources of that investment interest grow, we’ll need to be more assertive about encouraging investment that aligns with our national interest in the longer term,” Treasurer Jim Chalmers mentioned last Australian Critical Minerals Summit.

However, Moulis Legal special counsel Jessica Giovanelli listed some treaty obligations that may hinder Australia from carrying out this move. 

We expect FIRB policy to be re-articulated so that legal investment prohibitions extend beyond the bounds of foreign state actors, critical infrastructure, and national security business/national security land, as these categories are now understood.

As a nod to the 15 November meeting between Australian Prime Minister Albanese and China’s President Xi Jinping, which signalled a reduction in animosity between the two countries, “China” is not publicly cited as the focus of the Australian leadership’s concerns in despatches. However, one might speculate which significant trading partners may be targeted.

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