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Australia's critical minerals industry needs quicker permits, not subsidies -BHP

Published 06/26/2023, 08:22 PM
Updated 06/26/2023, 09:30 PM
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Coal is unloaded onto large piles at the Ulan Coal mines near the central New South Wales rural town of Mudgee in Australia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

By Melanie Burton

BRISBANE (Reuters) -Australia's critical minerals strategy does not need the sugar hit of more subsidies as good projects will find investment, but the country needs to hasten mine development timeframes and rework new workplace legislation, BHP's CEO said on Tuesday.

BHP CEO Mike Henry's comments came a week after Australia, one of the world's biggest suppliers of raw minerals, outlined a strategy on how it will work with investors and international partners to build a critical minerals processing industry.

The strategy, which aims to see Australia as a significant producer by 2030 of critical minerals that are key to the global energy transition, drew criticism from some who were hoping for larger subsidies, shorter regulatory approval timeframes and additions to its list of critical minerals.

The strategy "is not enough", Henry told reporters on the sidelines of a mining conference in Brisbane.

"There’s a big movement underway in the U.S. right now towards permitting reform. Australia needs to do that."

The government needs to address the overlap between state and national regulation as well as speed up permitting, he said.

National and state governments also need to focus on making their jurisdictions more attractive for investment.

"There is enough investment appetite for good projects under the right conditions," Henry told a mining conference in Brisbane.

"What the Australian resources industry needs is better productivity and fiscal settings," he said.

That includes a productive and flexible workforce and consultation over proposed regulations, such as changes to royalty regimes and labour reforms.

"Under those conditions, the capital will flow."

As an example of where capital will not flow, Henry said BHP would not invest further in Queensland, where the state government held no consultation before hiking coal royalties last year to the highest of any jurisdiction in the world.

Queensland on Tuesday announced a new critical minerals development strategy to attract investment to the state.

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Coal is unloaded onto large piles at the Ulan Coal mines near the central New South Wales rural town of Mudgee in Australia, March 8, 2018. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo

BHP estimates the world will need an additional $100 billion per year in capital investment in the resources sector to get on track to meet the Paris aligned 1.5C scenario, he said.

Translated into metals demand, Henry said that means twice as much copper, steel and potash and four times as much nickel, BHP's major products.

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