New funding to boost discoveries of critical minerals for green technologies in Western Australia must strike a balance with protecting nature, according to the state’s peak conservation body.
The WA State Government unveiled a $40 million ‘Sustainable Geoscience Investments Package’ on Tuesday with the aim of supporting and accelerating critical minerals exploration across the state. The plan will form part of the 2023-24 state budget.
The package is designed to ‘address the ever-increasing demand for critical minerals used in technologies such as electric vehicles, energy storage and solar panels’, according to a media release.
Approximately half the world’s lithium production comes from Western Australia, while the state is also responsible for large exports of nickel, cobalt, manganese and rare earth elements. However, according to the state government, known reserves of these materials are not sufficient to meet future needs.
Joe Heffernan, Executive Director of the Conservation Council of WA (CCWA), said that while critical minerals are necessary to boost the production of renewable energy in order to decarbonise the world’s energy supply, a careful and considered approach is needed.
“If we are going to decarbonise, we need renewables”, he said.
“The world does need to increase the production of the raw materials used to support the development of renewable energy solutions, but it cannot come at any cost.
“New mining sites will have to go somewhere, but they cannot go anywhere.
“We have far too many examples across our state where projects have been needlessly destructive and left a lasting legacy of environmental damage. It is incumbent on the State Government to ensure that proponents are held to higher standards than they have been in the past.”
One of the announcement’s key elements was a $16.1 million boost to the existing ‘Exploration Incentive Scheme’, increasing exploration for critical minerals in so-called ‘greenfield’ sites and creating a new Geophysical Co-funding Program (GCP). The GCP program will ‘support better decision making around land use by excluding ground that shows little or no prospectivity’, according to the state government.
However, the Conservation Council of WA has urged the state government to ensure that prospectivity is not the only consideration when identifying potential critical minerals mining sites.
“GCP decision making tools should not only exclude sites that have little or no prospectivity, but also exclude sites that have significant conservation, biodiversity or cultural values”, said Joe Heffernan.
“Protection of our natural landscapes and native species must take precedent over any new mining.”
MEDIA INFORMATION: The Conservation Council of WA (CCWA) is the state’s foremost non-profit, non-government conservation organisation representing nearly 100 environmental organisations across Western Australia.
For more information, visit: ccwa.org.au.
CONTACT: For any enquiries relating to this release, please contact Robert Davies
08 9420 7291 / 0412 272 570 or by email, [email protected]