Mining tycoon Andrew Forrest’s Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has lodged applications to explore vast tracts of WA’s south coast for critical minerals.
- The mining exploration licenses include tenements close to Ravensthorpe where lithium and nickel are mined
- A resource analyst says FMG will be looking for materials used in renewable batteries
- The company is positioning itself as a renewable energy company, the analyst says
The WA billionaire owns FMG, which has lodged almost two dozen applications through the mining regulatory body this month.
The 21 applications are for tenements in an area stretching from Gnowangerup to Ravensthorpe and Lake King.
FMG is a West Australian mining company that focuses on the exploration, development, production and processing of iron ore, with most of its assets located in the state’s Pilbara region.
FMG remained tight-lipped when questioned by the ABC about which minerals it was looking for in the Great Southern, but it has been ramping up its search for lithium.
Lithium is in high demand because it is used in batteries for technology and electric vehicles.
The commodity is valuable because of its high charge and low atomic mass.
Other minerals in Ravensthorpe include nickel and cobalt.
Battery minerals in high demand
MineLife senior resource analyst Gavin Wendt said FMG would be looking for battery materials and other metals that could go into renewable energy.
“Fortescue is increasingly positioning itself as a renewable energy company, and it’s looking towards these future-facing commodities as the world moves towards renewable energy,” he said.
“There’s a real growth opportunity out there for resource companies.
“We’re starting to see the world’s major miners … realize that they need to get their hands on these strategic materials because of the increase in demand that’s going to come through over the ensuing decades.”
Fortescue has not explored mining options in the Great Southern and Esperance area before, but Mr Wendt said in recent years larger companies had been going “further off the beaten [track]”.
“Ravensthorpe already has a strong history in terms of lithium, nickel and tantalum mines,” he said.
“In fact, we’ve got the Greenbushes mine, which is the world’s largest hard rock lithium operation, in the region.
“It’s a very prospective region, but it probably hasn’t seen the level of exploration that is justified over the decades, so I think that’s about to change.”
Along with mining exploration, Dr Forrest has a sustainable shellfish enterprise in Albany through Harvest Road.