Minerals of Southeast Asia: Opportunity Knocks

Minerals produced in Southeast Asia play an important role in global supply and local production and infrastructure. The region is a large producer of minerals needed for the global energy transition, including nickel, copper and tin, and has high production potential.

However, the environmental and social impacts of mining and processing are causing concern among local communities and consumers. Such concerns, coupled with uncertainties surrounding mining laws, have led to a decline in exploration and mining investment in Southeast Asia.

Australian companies collectively make Australia the largest investor in mineral exploration in Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

This leaves the region below its mineral production potential, underperforming its much-needed role in critical mineral supply chains, and an importer of many minerals needed for production and development.

Seeking to boost mineral investment, ASEAN mining ministers accepted the amendment ASEAN Minerals Cooperation Action Plan 2021 to 2025 (AMCAP-III) in October 2021. The aim is to “build a vibrant and competitive ASEAN minerals sector for the well-being of ASEAN people”.

AMCAP-III sets out how the ten ASEAN countries will work together to promote sustainable mineral development, promote mineral investment and build human and institutional capacity. AMCAP-III was implemented to recognize the fundamental role of minerals of all types in ASEAN economies and sustainable development, and to promote and promote business and trade integration in ASEAN.

AMCAP-III, and the design of a new mineral information system, was developed with Australian funding and advice. ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Programme. A new project, Australia ASEAN Future Initiative (Aus4ASEAN Futures) was launched in mid-2022, with the first sub-programme “Economics and Connectivity (ECON)”. Details on how Australia will support sustainable mineral development in ASEAN in the future are yet to emerge from ECON.

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Australian companies collectively make Australia the largest investor in mineral exploration in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. In 2022, ASX-listed companies spent US$100 million exploring for minerals there, or 28 percent of all exploration investment in the region. In Southeast Asia alone, Australian companies have discovered US$220 billion worth of mineral reserves and invested US$2.6 billion in mining. S&P Global Mining Database.

Nicholas Moore emphasized Australia’s economic interests in the ASEAN region in his recent report Southeast Asia Economic Strategy Report To the Australian Government. Moore highlighted regional market openings for Australian-produced minerals and mining equipment and services, as well as investment opportunities for Australian mineral companies. Moore’s report identified the capacity-building needs of many ASEAN countries to sustainably produce minerals and recommended government-to-government cooperation efforts.

Australia’s international development policy provides little discussion of the importance of economic growth and how international development facilitates it.

However, Stephen Moore points it out Australia’s international development policy, published in August 2023, provides a brief discussion of the importance of economic growth and how international development facilitates it. Moore offers recommendations for economically focused development cooperation in ASEAN and several ASEAN countries.

In addition to its long-standing ASEAN development efforts, Australia is implementing economic development cooperation commitments with Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries under two trade and investment agreements. Both of them Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IA-CEPA) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) has entire chapters on „Economic Cooperation” to help build capacity for trade and investment.

A growing number Regional and Global Agreements on Critical Minerals It was decided over the past 18 months that Australia should work with other countries to build a network of safe and sustainable supply chains. The agreements implicitly recognize that some supplier countries will need assistance to join these new supply chains. Many ASEAN countries are among them.

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It remains to be seen how Australia responds to its commitments under these agreements Memorandum of Understanding with Indonesia For „Electric Vehicle Ecosystem” collaboration.

Of course, Australia has significant mineral investment in Southeast Asia, and strong trade in minerals and mining equipment, technology and services with Southeast Asian countries. Australia has been delivering mineral development cooperation projects in Southeast Asia for over a decade. These relationships make a compelling business case for continued engagement in building sustainable mineral supply chains within and out of the region.

Canada, Germany, Japan, Korea, the United States and China are already helping ASEAN and its member countries develop a mineral action plan and information system and critical mineral supply chains. Australia should bring its recognized regional leadership in minerals technology, skills and governance.

Disclaimer: The author led a team from the University of Queensland between 2020 and 2022.

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