Australian mining group asks government to repeal nuclear power ban

The Minerals Council of Australia or MCA issued a communiqué calling on the Scott Morrison administration to repeal a current ban on nuclear power.

The release followed Morrison’s comments last week on a Tasmanian radio station, where the prime minister said he would be okay with receiving proposals from the nuclear energy industry.

However, following a negative reaction from the opposition, the Liberal politician took it to Twitter to explain that even though receiving recommendations related to non-conventional energy generation was “not ‘not’ on the agenda,” his government doesn’t have any plans to change the laws regarding nuclear power.

Australia's known uranium resources are the world’s largest.

In response to this discussion, the MCA said that even though it acknowledges the Federal Government is not considering removing the current ban on nuclear power, the group believes now is the time to end “the discriminatory treatment of nuclear energy by repealing the ban.”

The Council argues its point by noting that nuclear energy provides 11% of the world's electricity in a reliable fashion, at a very low cost, and with zero emissions. According to the industry organization, these are the reasons behind the recent proliferation of nuclear power stations in China, the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and the United Kingdom.

“Removing the ban would allow Australians to have a serious conversation about a genuinely technology-neutral approach towards the nation’s energy mix – delivering affordable, reliable and clean energy sources,” the release states. “The removal of the prohibition on nuclear energy will also allow for investment proposals to be brought forward.”

According to the World Nuclear Association, Australia's known uranium resources are the world’s largest – almost one-third of the planet’s total.

Despite the fact that only three mines are currently operating in the Oceanian country, it is the third-ranking producer, behind Kazakhstan and Canada. In 2017, Australia produced 6937 tonnes of U3O8 (5882 tU), all of which were exported.

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Australia to host battery research centre

Australia's Federal Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, Karen Andrews, announced the approval of a Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre at Curtin University. Andrews also said her office will commit A$25 million in funding.

The centre, known by its initials CRC, is a national collaboration between 58 industry, government and research partners, together pitching in additional A$28 million. Companies such as Tianqi Lithium, BHP Nickel West, Cobalt Blue and Pilbara Metals are among the partners.

According to Curtin authorities, the goal is to address existing gaps in the country's capacity to respond to a predicted growth in the battery industry by creating opportunities in all the areas connected to the sector, from mining and processing to manufacturing and deployment in households, businesses, and communities.

Glencore’s Murrin Murrin nickel-cobalt mine in Western Australia. Photo by Glencore.

“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," Future Chair Tim Shanahan said in a press release. "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."

Curtin data show that exports of lithium, just one of Australia’s energy materials, have risen from A$117 million in 2012 to A$780 million in 2017, and are expected to rise to A$1.1 billion by 2020.

Reacting to the announcement, the Minerals Council of Australia issued a statement saying the initiative is crucial for the country's future.

In the group's view, growing interest in renewable energy will continue to see higher demand for the minerals that are used in battery manufacturing and this places Australia in a privileged position given the country's vast deposits of lithium, cobalt and rare earth elements.

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Australian mining industry group praises free trade deal with Peru

On the one year anniversary of the signing of the Peru-Australia Free Trade Agreement or PAFTA, the Minerals Council of Australia issued a statement saying that the ratification of the deal is expected to deliver major investment and job opportunities for Australia’s mining industry.

"Under PAFTA, Peru will eliminate 99.4 per cent of its tariffs, including on valuable Australian resources such as iron ore, copper, nickel, coal, mineral fuels and oil," the statement reads. "Australian mining commodities and mining equipment, technology and services (METS) dominate the $640 million trading relationship with Peru. In 2017, seven out of the top eight of Australia’s largest merchandise exports to Peru were METS or mining commodities."

PAFTA provides duty-free access across all tariff lines for steel, aluminium, and base metals.

Besides the economic benefits for both countries, the MCA said it is important to highlight the fact that the deal provides greater certainty and stability around the two-way investments already taking place between Australia and Peru.

In detail, PAFTA provides duty-free access across all tariff lines for iron, steel, aluminium, base metals, mining equipment/machinery and parts.

When it comes to METS and oilfield service providers, the agreement stipulates that Peru should grant access, on non-discriminatory terms, to Australian suppliers of mining-related consulting, research and development, engineering, environmental, mining and technical testing and analysis services.

"In 2017, Australia investment in Peru stood at over $600 million, with Australian mining companies making major investments in exploration, operational mining activities and partnerships with local resource companies," the Minerals Council's brief reads. "PAFTA will directly benefit Peruvians and Peru’s business community along with creating more Australian jobs and supporting local business."

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Minerals Council of Australia calls for tax, workplace law reform

The Minerals Council of Australia published a report titled The Next Frontier: Australian Mining Policy Priorities where it asks the government to advanced a revived tax reform that removes barriers that hinder the growth of the country’s mining sector.

According to the Council, such reform would encourage additional investment in capital and technology.

“Australia should have strong tax integrity rules that are consistent with OECD best practice. The treatment of debt to fund investment in Australia should be aligned with OECD measures and should not affect legitimate debt, which is critical for Australia as a capital-importing economy,” the report reads.

The industry group also called on the Parliament to ensure tax settings are competitive and to retain the Fuel Tax Credit scheme so that companies operating in remote areas are not penalised for off-road diesel use.

In the document, the MCA urges authorities to modernise Australia’s workplace rules, which would imply removing duplication and red tape to allow local firms to stay ahead of the pack globally. In the organization’s view, there is unnecessary overlap in the requirements put forward by federal and state governments and this causes delays on projects and impacts the workforce.

“Flexibility and choice in employment arrangements will ensure that Australia’s highly paid, highly skilled mining workforce will be able to make the most of opportunities created by technology and new ways of working,” the report states.

The Minerals Council of Australia said it fears that jobs and the sustainability of regional and remote communities will be at risk if legislation related to the workplace is kept the way it is right now.

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