Australia and the US need to work together to ensure supplies of critical minerals such as rare earths, an energy forum was told on Tuesday.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said Washington was worried that a future conflict could undermine access to natural resources in the way that the Russia-Ukraine war has interrupted oil and gas.
“Our concern is that critical minerals could be as subject or vulnerable to manipulation as we’ve seen in other areas, or weaponisation,” Granholm said at the start of talks with officials and executives from 14 miners at the Sydney Energy Forum.
“I think it’s healthy – and from a national security perspective – for both of our nations to diversify supply chains and make sure that these minerals are available to get to the ultimate goal of net zero [greenhouse gas emissions],” she said.
Companies at the meeting included global giant Rio Tinto, rare earths producer Lynas Rare Earths, mineral sands miner Iluka Resources, graphite miner Syrah Resources and rare earths developer Arafura Resources.
“We are very serious about establishing strong relationships with Australia and with you and with your potential customers for offtake,” Granholm said.
Lynas recently won a $120 million contract from the US Department of Defense to build a processing plant in Texas.
- Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell