Prime Minister Scott Morrison launched the federal government's resource roadmap and all but killed off an application to extend gas exploration off the Hunter's coast during a visit to Tomago on Thursday morning.
His third visit to Port Stephens in the past six months, the Prime Minister toured the site where lithium-ion battery manufacturer Energy Renaissance will build its $28 million facility and launched the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Roadmap.
The 10-year plan, part of the government's Modern Manufacturing Strategy, aims to help businesses capitalise on Australia's access to resources needed to manufacture new technologies such as electric vehicles, mobile phones and renewable energy systems.
Mr Morrison said the government was focused on continuing to rebuild and grow the economy with manufacturing playing a key role in the COVID-19 recovery.
"Our [COVID-19] economic recovery plan is not just about providing the immediate support as we have over these many difficult months, it's also about rebuilding. That is going on now, and building for the future. In the Hunter, they're building the future on this site [with] lithium-ion batteries," Mr Morrison said in Tomago on Thursday.
"It's tremendously exciting to see that our manufacturing strategy that we set out in last year's budget - some $1.3 billion specifically going into partnership grants that are driven by these roadmaps developed together with industry - will see critical areas like minerals processing making the batteries that will power the world's economy into the future."
ScoMo's last Port visits:
Applications under the government's $1.3 billion manufacturing strategy also opened Thursday.
Energy Renaissance managing director Mark Chilcote welcomed the launch of the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Roadmap.
Mr Chilcote said Australia is the only country in the world that is sitting on all the raw materials needed to make lithium-ion batteries and that the roadmap will "increase the value and influence Australia's battery industry in the global lithium value chain".
"Australia cannot afford to be at the end of a queue for these minerals. There is currently no commercial production of battery-grade materials and chemicals in Australia," he said.
"But we will change this in the very near future when Energy Renaissance commences production of its batteries. We will be able to engage with suppliers of Australian nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite, lithium, aluminium and copper and to use their materials in our batteries."
Australia is the largest lithium producer in the world, supplying just over half of global supply.
Recent forecasts suggest demand for lithium for electric vehicles alone will grow from 25,000 tonnes in 2020, to 425,000 tonnes in 2030.
Construction of Energy Renaissance's 4500sqm purpose-built Tomago facility will begin in April. Small-scale production of batteries are planned to begin in July and full-scale expected in October when construction is finished.
Further speaking to media in Tomago on Thursday, when asked whether he supported extending the Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 (PEP 11) licence off the Hunter's coast, Mr Morrison said: "no".
The Prime Minister said Resources Minister Keith Pitt would make the final decision but he was clear that he did not support extending the licence, which covers an area stretching from Port Stephens to Sydney.
Advent Energy wants to extend the permit for another five years arguing that its plans to explore and potentially drill for gas represent a "potential solution to substantial gas shortage issues".
Community opposition to the plan has swelled in recent weeks.
During a visit to Nelson Bay on Tuesday, Labor leader Anthony Albanese shared his opposition to the PEP 11 extension, saying it is a "threat to tourism operators from Port Stephens all the way down to Sydney".
Mr Morrison was also asked whether he supported Medowie solicitor and ex-political staffer Brooke Vitnell as the Liberal candidate for Paterson in the next federal election.
"I will allow the party members to make those decisions. And I'm sure they'll make a very good decision," Mr Morrison said.
Ms Vitnell has not declared that she will be running, but has been put forward by Liberal Party insiders as a contender.
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