Australia’s top scientists say one of the nation’s oldest industries is key to some of its newest endeavours. 

Experts at CSIRO are studying ways that Australia’s mining and manufacturing sectors can work together to turn critical minerals resources such as lithium and silicon into much needed products for renewable energy, like electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines. 

The organisation has released the Critical Energy Minerals Roadmap, detailing the significant potential for Australia to reshape its mining sector to capitalise on its new opportunities. 

The report says global demand for renewable energy technologies will mean the future global economy is underpinned by critical energy minerals. 

The Roadmap estimates the metal value of the energy transition’s top technologies to reach more than AUD$5 trillion dollars globally by 2050, over half of that being battery metals, with  greater value potential for manufacturing products like cathodes for batteries or polysilicon for solar PV cells.

CSIRO’s mining director Jonathan Law says Australia should do more than just sell raw materials.

“Rather than just extracting the minerals and shipping them away to be refined and turned into products, Australia has a real opportunity to operate all the way along the energy value chain, from extraction to processing, separating, refining and manufacturing high value materials and products,” Mr Law says.

“Connecting our mining and manufacturing sectors can create an investment ecosystem that supports domestic supply chains and resource circularity for our critical minerals.

“The roadmap also demonstrates the economic opportunities that can be harnessed by strategically investing in new critical mineral deposits and processing technologies that reduce cost and environmental footprint.” 

The report, co-funded by the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources’ Critical Minerals Facilitation Office, examines the renewable energy technologies expected to undergo accelerated growth over the coming decades and assesses Australia’s potential to derive value from minerals needed to manufacture these technologies.