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How breakthroughs, partnerships and people are driving transformational change in the critical minerals sector

Last updated: 24 November 2023


Marnie Finalyson, Managing Director Battery Materials, gave a keynote at the AusIMM Critical Minerals Conference. Here are some of her key insights.

Marnie Finalyson, Managing Director Battery Materials, gave a keynote at the AusIMM Critical Minerals Conference. Here are some of her key insights.

On the challenges and opportunities of climate change

“Climate change is the biggest existential risk we face. One that requires an urgent response, with mining companies a part of the solution.

“The global minerals industry is facing a conundrum where the positive aspects of mining, namely the production of critical minerals to underpin a low carbon future, are offset by environmental and social risks that may impede both current mining and exploration activities as well as future metal and mineral production.

“Security of supply of critical minerals and advancing Research and Development (R&D) into new technologies to assist the world’s transition to a low carbon economy are other tricky problems.

“They demand careful conversations and a deep understanding of the issues.”

On the demand for critical minerals

“Demand for critical minerals is growing very quickly. Indeed, the projections for demand for critical minerals are quite eye watering.

“There are many metrics and lots of data, but all of a similar magnitude.

The World Bank reported in 2020 that the production of minerals, such as graphite, lithium and cobalt, could increase by nearly 500% by 2050, to meet the growing demand for clean energy technologies.

“The World Bank also estimates that over 3 billion tons of minerals and metals will be needed to deploy wind, solar and geothermal power, as well as energy storage, required for achieving a below 2°C future.”

On how we’re supporting the energy transition

“We’re accelerating our own decarbonisation, switching to renewable power, electrifying processing, and where possible, running electric mobile fleets.

“We’re increasing our investment in R&D to speed up the development of technologies that will enable our customers to decarbonise.

“We’re prioritising growth capital in commodities that are essential for the drive to net zero, which is why we established our Battery Minerals business in 2021.”

On Scandium as a breakthrough technology

Scandium, sometimes classified as a rare earth, is tricky to extract from other elements.

“In Quebec, Canada, we have a commercial scale plant that is producing high quality scandium. It involves a highly innovative process developed by our team to extract high purity scandium oxide from the waste streams of the existing titanium dioxide production, without the need for any additional mining.

“And our recent acquisition of the Australia Scandium Project, a high-grade scandium resource in New South Wales, when operational, will more than double our annual scandium production and provide us with expertise for our broader critical minerals business.”

On teaming with others to decarbonise

“Our research centres in Australia and Canada have been operating for over 50 years.

“Employing around 2,000 people, the primary purpose of these R&D centres is to partner with academia and other scientific institutions in developing technologies to support the energy transition at our sites – changing not just what we produce, but also how we produce it.

“Our R&D partnerships are multifaceted and partners vary from startups, to governments and non-government organisations, through to academia, suppliers and customers.”

On wealth from waste in a circular economy

“Waste is such a critical issue. This not only means our tailings, but extends to mine closure and products such as scrap metal and demolition waste.

“And given the common goals of climate change and waste mitigation, it’s in everyone’s best interest to ensure that the mining, metals and recycling industries work together.

“One area where we will see this is in battery materials.”

On people and their stories being part of the solution

“The jobs and skills required to underpin the energy transition shouldn’t be underestimated.

“We need all voices to be heard if we are to build the relationships that will provide the depth and breadth to solve problems – problems that we don’t even know about today.

“And finally, we need to tell our story better. We need to share what it means to be a modern mining company, harnessing the transformative power of partnerships and technology."

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