With vast supplies of critical minerals, renewable energy and business-friendly regulations, South Australia is open for investment.

EarthmoverSouth Australia has an ambitious goal to tap into its world-class energy and mining reserves and more than double its exports from $5.3 billion to $13bn within the next decade.

The state government sees the mining and energy sector as one of the nine pillars of the state’s economic plan. Currently, the sector contributes $9.3bn to the state economy and employs 43,000 people.

At the heart of the government’s Energy and Mining Strategy is support for resource exploration and creating a modern energy system that lowers costs for consumers while helping to reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions. It will also contribute to the statewide target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The state government’s Energy and Mining Strategy is also intimately connected with the goal of becoming a 100 per cent net renewable energy state by 2030, which means it will produce more renewable energy than needed for domestic consumption. The state already generates more than half its electricity from renewable sources and, according to the SA Government's Climate Action Plan, could produce five times more renewable energy than local grid demand by 2050. It is anticipated that will make the state attractive as an investment destination for firms looking to produce goods and materials with a minimal carbon footprint, particularly energy-intensive industries.

South Australia wants to become one of the world’s first producers of “green” minerals including green steel, by capitalising on the states abundant solar and wind resources to produce low cost renewable electricity and clean fuels.

Hydrogen is seen as one such fuel of the future, satisfying both energy needs and a low carbon footprint. It is a much-anticipated growth sector within Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy estimating that successful development of a national hydrogen industry could generate 7,600 jobs and add about $11 billion a year in additional GDP by 2050. South Australian Energy and Mining Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan said there is strong international demand in Japan and South Korea for “green” hydrogen, produced with renewable energy.

“We can do more competitive hydrogen electrolysis from green electricity than anywhere else, using only renewable energy. Down the track, we will produce the only type of hydrogen that people want to consume.”

The government has committed over $1 million in funding to develop a Hydrogen Export Pre-feasibility Study, South Australian Hydrogen Export Modelling Tool and investor Prospectus.

The Tool will make it easier for clean hydrogen proponents – blue and green – to develop conceptual hydrogen projects in South Australia.

The Tool - which combines spatial mapping, technical specifications and commercial modelling - allows users to determine a Free-On-Board cost per kilogram from a South Australian port to select destinations in Asia – adjusting for the parameters of their projects.

While abundant solar and wind energy is slated to power a green export revolution, the state is also focused on its abundant resources below the ground, particularly in-demand commodities that are the building blocks of a renewable energy industry and high-tech sector.

The state is home to some significant global and national resources of critical minerals, including 65 per cent of the nation’s copper, graphite and zircon as well as halloysite, cobalt, rare earths and gallium. The world’s largest zircon mine, Jacinth-Ambrosia, is in South Australia’s Nullarbor Plain.

“We are incredibly focused on exploration, both minerals and petroleum,” Mr van Holst Pellekaan said. “As the world modernises, digitises and decarbonises, copper, gold, nickel and many more will become increasingly important. Graphite and zircon also fit into the modern world very well and the things we have in South Australia are the things we know are going to be needed in the future. How these minerals are sourced, and reducing the footprint required to produce them, is of increasing interest to community, manufacturers, investors and miners alike.”

To attract investors to these underground treasures, the government’s Accelerated Discovery Initiative offers co-funding for exploration drilling, geophysics, research and collaboration. While the government’s vast database of drill samples is available to potential explorers free of charge, giving them access to The Geological Survey of South Australia’s entire collection of samples of drill cores from 120 years of exploration. The state is also investing in digital and chemical analysis to lower the cost of discovery.

“It is all about digital analysis,” he said, “If you know your chance of success is greater in South Australia because of this digital collection we are providing, it is more likely that you will come here and do it.”

While supporting exploration activities, the government has also promised to reduce red tape and improve infrastructure access for mining and minerals projects. The government has also just completed a review of the state’s Mining Act and updated its regulations.

The Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, the peak lobby group for the energy industry, supports the government’s legislative effort as well as the policy. APPEA’s state director Claire Wilkinson applauded the government’s effort to create a modern energy system and said ease of doing business was a feature of investing in the state.

“South Australia is widely regarded by the industry as having one the best regulatory regimes in Australia for onshore exploration and development,” Wilkinson said.

The new government strategy also seeks to improve infrastructure such as road access and water in a bid to address the three major challenges for operating mining projects: power on site, transport of product and water.

The state is pushing ahead with other necessary developments in the meantime. Renewable energy generation capacity at mining sites has reduced the need to transport diesel by trucks and sealing outback routes like the Strzelecki Track is improving vehicle access, increasing industry productivity and lowering energy costs.

South Australia is getting its vast tracts of mineral and renewable rich land ready for fertile investment.

Energy and mining sector plan

Sourced from Future Adelaide