November 22 marks Australia’s day of recognition for the country’s mining industry. In 2023, the moment holds added significance as the industry stands on the precipice of a clean energy future, one it’s expected to both enable and embrace. BHP, Australia and the world’s largest miner, has used the moment to highlight the contribution of mining to the domestic economy while warning about upcoming demand challenges. Mining contributed around 37% of Australia’s GDP in 2021/22.

In its Recapturing Australia’s Competitiveness report, BHP focussed on the Paris Agreement and, specifically, achieving temperature targets by rapidly advancing clean energy technologies. Each of these innovations will rely on critical miners, the production of which must be multiplied many times according to the company.

To meet the climate challenge, estimates suggest we will need:

  • Up to 140 new copper mines
  • 60 new nickel mines 
  • 50 new lithium mines 
  • And 17 new cobalt mines will be required by 2030.

The report called for an added $150 billion per year in mining investment and a focus on four central pillars, including:

  • Stable and globally competitive policy, regulatory and fiscal settings
  • Robust, transparent and streamlined permitting
  • Best-in-class enabling infrastructure
  • A world-class METS sector and workforce of the future.

Andrew Forrest Pushes Green Energy Agenda

The trial-and-error approach to innovation continues at Fortescue Metals and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI). After experiencing significant setbacks to its green energy plans, mainly involving hydrogen production in Western Australia, ‘Twiggy’ is pressing on with a Queensland hydrogen plant and embracing an aggressive US investment strategy. Fortescue has recently announced the Final Investment Decision (FID) on three major projects, two hydrogen-based and one producing green steel. The combined investment value represents roughly AUD 1.15 billion over the next three years. 

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The projects include:

  • The Gladstone PEM50 project in Queensland 
  • A trial of a Christmas Creek (WA) green iron commercial plant
  • And a Phoenix hydrogen hub in the US.

According to Fortescue, these are also the first green hydrogen projects to proceed to FID in Australia or the US. Fortescue has made clear its ambitions for rapid advances in the US following the introduction of the misleadingly titled Inflation Reduction Act, which is actually a set of comprehensive green energy policies. “The Phoenix hydrogen hub establishes Fortescue in one of the most attractive energy markets in the world, facilitated by the Inflation Reduction Act,” Fortescue Energy CEO Mark Hutchinson said. Fortescue hopes to target “double-digit project returns” based on a disciplined approach to capital investment. “This is the start of a pipeline of green energy projects we are dedicated to delivering,” Hutchinson added. 

Liontown Powers Ahead with 30MW in Renewable Energy

After hogging the headlines and becoming a hot takeover prospect for major miners, Liontown is progressing with its plans for a clean energy lithium operation. Its flagship Kathleen Valley project in WA has just received critical components for an on-site wind farm, with further arrivals expected soon. Each wind turbine is over 210m tall, with blades reaching 81m in length and the capacity to generate a combined 30MW of emissions-free energy. Liontown’s 95MW hybrid power station will provide the largest off-grid wind-solar battery storage capacity for an Australian mining project. The renewable energy plant will be developed and run by Zenith Energy and provide 100% renewable energy during high wind and solar power periods.

“We are on track to operate with a low-carbon footprint from the outset at Kathleen Valley,” Liontown said in a statement. 

The company has also announced the commencement of underground mining at the remote lithium project. Located about 680km north-east of Perth in Western Australia, Liontown aims to produce its first lithium from the mine in mid-2024. 


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