WA’s mines minister says the Liberal goverment is ‘ignoring’ the state’s mining sector
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Western Australia’s mines minister Bill Johnston had some stern words for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, ahead of his planned visit to Perth this week.
Mr Johnston is particularly aggrieved about the fact that the federal Liberal government has “ignored WA’s mining sector”.
“When it decided to set up METS Ignited to support research and development, and promote Australia’s mining, equipment, technology and services sector, it was placed in Queensland,” he said.
He pointed out that Queensland just happens to be the state that federal resources minister Matt Canavan calls home.
“I have warned the federal government that its mining strategy should not get in the way of WA’s successful industry,” Mr Johnston said.
“I’m happy to see support for mining in other states, but it cannot be done at the expense of our state, otherwise our nation will suffer.”
Mr Johnston wants Mr Morrison to name WA as the home of the new Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (CRC).
“Western Australia is the ideal place to host the CRC as the state has all the minerals required to make batteries and energy technologies and is an innovative powerhouse when it comes to exploration and discovery,” he said.
WA was shortlisted in October last year as a potential location for the CRC and an announcement on where exactly it will reside is expected to be made this month.
The WA government previously agreed to chip in $5.5m if it was successful in its bid to have the CRC located in WA.
“So now it’s time for Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deliver for WA’s emerging battery industry and support the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre for WA,” Mr Johnston said.
A spokesperson for minister for industry, science and technology Karen Andrews would not comment on whether or not the current government backed the CRC being in WA, saying only that the process is still ongoing and an announcement will be made in due course.
Mr Canavan hit back at Mr Johnston’s criticisms.
“It is incredible that the WA minister has tried to deflect his own failures by criticising the federal government just days after the state [Environmental Protection Authority] tried to impose a whole new bunch of impossible regulations on the state’s mining sector,” Mr Canavan said in an emailed statement to Stockhead.
“In contrast, the federal Coalition is leading the way when it comes to backing Western Australia’s resources sector, including critical minerals projects.
“Last year I chaired the inaugural COAG Resources meeting, which agreed to develop a dedicated critical minerals work program for the nation, which will build on the work we are already doing in the area of infrastructure development, research and development and investment promotion.
“It will also help coordinate activities across government and promote investment in Australia’s critical mineral resources.”
Mr Canavan said that in his capacity as federal resources minister he had approved more than $114m in Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility loans for two critical minerals projects in WA.
He added that the government’s latest round of CRC project grants will provide up to $20m to companies looking to develop critical minerals projects.
“At a higher level, our recently released National Resources Statement outlines a broad vision to have the world’s most advanced, innovative and successful resources sector.
“We have also entered into a partnership with the United States to work together on strategic minerals exploration, extraction, processing and research, and the development of rare earths and high-performance metals.”
Federal Labor spent last week sweet-talking WA miners at a conference in Perth, promising that if it wins government at the election in May, Perth will be the home of a new Australian Future Mines Centre.
“The Australian Future Mines Centre will seek to lead scientific research projects and will be funded through a $46m Australian Research Council special research initiative with additional input from the Australian Academy of Sciences and from the sector itself,” Madeleine King, federal shadow minister assisting for resources, said.
“A Shorten Labor government will inject $23m directly into this centre.”
Labor has also promised a $2m fund that will provide about 100 scholarships to “arrest the dramatic decline in students enrolling in mining engineering degrees”.
Of those 100 scholarships, 50 worth $20,000 each will be granted to WA universities.