The Australia-United States partnership is one of the world’s most multifaceted. From security and technology to cultural and economic ties, Australia and the United States remain steadfast partners with an enduring relationship that goes back hundreds of years. This relationship was furthered in April 2022, as the Australian company Auroch Minerals announced an 80% acquisition in a Nevada lithium project. Lithium is a strategic metal used in the production of lithium-ion batteries (LIBs), energy-dense batteries used in smartphones, laptops, and even electric cars. As such, Auroch Minerals’ decision to invest in Nevada will greatly strengthen the US-Australia technology partnership, especially at a time when both countries are seeking further opportunities to collaborate in science and technology.
Auroch Minerals is a mineral exploration and development company based in West Perth, Western Australia. While its portfolio has primarily focused on nickel sulfide, it has also engaged in copper-zinc projects in Western Australia. Each of these compounds has a variety of usages in industry and manufacturing. When it announced its Nevada acquisition, it specifically chose to acquire an 80% interest in Nevada Lithium Pty Ltd (Nevada Australia), the 100% shareholder of Nevada Li Corp, which in turn controls the Nevada Lithium Project. This marks one of its first forays into lithium development, demonstrating its shift towards focusing on battery metals. It has a particular interest in using lithium for the electric vehicle (EV) industry, which relies heavily on LIBs. With its project being based near the town of Tonopah, Auroch Minerals’ production facilities will be under 200 miles away from the Tesla Gigafactory, a renewable energy-powered EV factory likely to be the largest building in the world upon its completion.
Investing in the LIB industry is a priority of both the American and Australian governments. On March 31, 2022, President Joe Biden declared his administration prioritizes creating a “robust, resilient, sustainable, and environmentally responsible domestic industrial base to meet the requirements of the clean energy economy”. He explicitly mentioned battery production and lithium, as he wants to reduce reliance on foreign sources for lithium as the United States transitions to a cleaner energy economy. Just days earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced four technology manufacturing projects across Australia, three of which directly related to battery energy storage. This is part of the Modern Manufacturing Initiative, in which the Australian government seeks to strengthen jobs, productivity, and international competitiveness in the Australian manufacturing sector. , in which the Australian government seeks to strengthen jobs, productivity, and international competitiveness in the Australian manufacturing sector.
As Auroch Minerals chooses to invest in Nevada, it will strengthen an already significant Nevada-Australia relationship. In 2019, Nevada exported over $185 million to Australia, while Australia exported nearly $57 million to Nevada. Several other Australian companies operate in Nevada, including ALS Global, Aristocrat Technologies, Inc., and Billabong. Auroch Minerals’ decision to work in Nevada is just the latest in a long history of Australia-US collaboration, highlighting how the partnership is continuing to evolve and grow closer.
Michael Di Girolamo is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. He is currently a first-year graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.