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The announcement of a Battery CRC for WA marks further progress for the state's battery materials sector.

Battery CRC another step towards powering up new WA ecosystem

Piece-by-piece, WA’s emerging new energy and battery materials sector is taking shape – with the announcement on Wednesday of $25 million of federal funding for a Future Battery Industries Co-operative Research Centre in Perth.

The $135 million centre, which will be located at Curtin University, will help ensure the state is at the scientific and technological cutting edge of batteries research. A total of 40 PhD students will be funded at the centre.

The commitment from the Coalition Government also demonstrates the bipartisan national understanding of the importance of batteries to this state’s – and our country’s – future, coming only months after WA’s Labor government launched a Future Battery Industry Western Australia Strategy.

Indeed, the establishment of a WA CRC will partly tick off one of four action themes from the WA Government’s “to-do” list under its strategy, which highlighted the need for “research and technology sector development” including supporting the CRC bid.

Another area of strong synergy between the CRC and the strategy is a desire for WA to move further along the battery manufacturing chain than ever before.

“The Future Battery Industries CRC will investigate opportunities for greater efficiencies in the extraction and refinement of battery minerals, including facilitating the steps beyond mining and concentrate production to cathode production and the manufacture and testing of battery components and systems,” CRC chair Tim Shanahan said after the announcement of the federal funding.

“Given Australia’s abundant resources of battery minerals and world-class resources sector, the potential to promote the nation’s premium-quality, ethically sourced and safe battery minerals and metals through forensic-accredited and traceable sources will also be investigated, paving the way for Australia to position itself as a global leader in the international battery value chain.”

The CRC news was welcomed by Premier Mark McGowan, Science Minister Dave Kelly and Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston.

“The growth of the battery industry’s activities and the adoption of battery technologies in Western Australia will spur domestic investment in research and development,” Mr McGowan said. 

“This will make the State more competitive and innovative in meeting the needs of the electric vehicle and energy storage markets.”

Released in January, the State Government’s The Future Battery Industry Western Australia Strategy has a stated aim of putting the state at the “centre of a global industrial revolution” and taking WA from what it is currently – the world’s biggest lithium producer – to a more serious player in downstream processing.

Australia disappears from the process after taking lithium out of the ground.
Australia disappears from the process after taking lithium out of the ground.

The three other “Action Themes” identified under the strategy are:

  1. Investment attraction – including “developing relationships with investors and manufacturers in global battery and electric vehicles supply chains.”
  2. Project facilitation – including “ensuring policies are in place to facilitate timely access to adequate energy and water supplies for future battery industry projects in the state.”
  3. Adoption of battery technologies: new opportunities – including “exploring domestic and export opportunities associated with the assembly, installation and management of energy storage systems” and “exploring manufacturing opportunities associated with the demand for niche battery products.”

WA has strong reserves of many components of modern battery technology, including lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese, aluminium, vanadium, and rare earth metals.

It also has, as noted by Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken, reserves of untapped, high-quality graphite.

Warrick Hazeldine is a founding Director of Cannings Purple and an expert Board-level adviser in the areas of investor relations, M&A, crisis and reputation management, with significant experience in the mining and resources sector. Contact Warrick.

We also have CRC experience through Special Counsel Paul Vogel, who is currently chairman of the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment.

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