When it comes to rare-earth elements, Australia has an opportunity to innovate and move up the value chain.
Australia’s approach to rare earths aims to lessen dependency through mining and some value-add processing for export. Rare earths comprise the 15 elements in the lanthanide series. Australia has the world’s sixth-largest reserves of rare-earth minerals and is the second-largest producer, but the bulk of our resource is largely untapped. The global market is dependent on China, which holds more than 80 per cent of the global rare-earth market—but there are opportunities for Australia. In addition to producing value-added oxides, metals and alloys, Australia could manufacture rare-earth magnets and other high-technology and high-value products. There are significant reserves of critical minerals here that are essential to manufacturing advanced technologies such as electric vehicles, mobile phones and renewable energy systems. However, Australia’s dependency raises challenges for our national security, sovereignty and economic prosperity, and we need to be more strategic about valuing and safeguarding what we have.