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Rare Earths in Australia

Although it’s home to producer Lynas, the land down under only accounts for some 3 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves.

Rare earths are elements vital to the modern technology age. The 17 elements grouped as rare earths are found in batteries, magnets, lasers, fibre optics, battle tanks, satellites, guided missiles and wind turbines — and that’s just to name a handful of applications.

By Australia’s own account, the land down under only accounts for some 3 percent of the world’s rare earth reserves — well behind China, the global superpower of the rare earths supply chain.

But there is a global focus on Australia as a rare earths player, and China is part of the reason why. Not because China was hungry for rare earths in the same way it is for all the other commodities Australia sells — but because of a trade dispute between China and Japan.


The rise of Australian producer Lynas

Rare earths have been mined in Australia since 2007, but in 2010 China and Japan engaged in a bitter dispute over fisheries and trawling activity in the East China Sea.

The disagreement saw China, which at the time mined over 93 percent of global rare earths output, halt exports of the minerals to Japan, which needed them for its heavy and high-tech industries.

While the dispute between China and Japan eventually simmered down — as far as any dispute with China can — Japan started to look elsewhere for rare earths in a bid to diversify its purchases.

Enter: Australia. Japan found and poured money into a domestic company called Lynas (ASX:LYC,OTC Pink:LYSCF), which before then had been a small player sitting on a rich deposit of the obscure minerals. Its mine, Mount Weld, was operational, but it was very much small fry.

It’s worth noting that China had an interest in Lynas even prior to Japan. Lynas, which to this day markets itself as “the only producer of scale of separated rare earths outside of China,” was almost gobbled up by the Chinese before the Japanese ever came knocking.

In 2009, state-owned China Non-Ferrous Metal Mining offered AU$252 million for a 51.6 percent stake in Lynas, but the offer was quashed by Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board on the grounds of concern for non-Chinese buyers.

Australia’s current rare earths production

Since then, Australia has never left the playing field when it comes to rare earths.

In 2019, Australia produced 21,000 tonnes of rare earths, making it the fourth largest producer behind China, and the recent additions of the US and Myanmar. Don’t be fooled, however — every country that isn’t China is a long way behind the Asian nation. China was responsible for 132,000 tonnes of rare earths in 2019, and remains the preeminent producer globally.

While there are more players on the field, Australia has skin in the game regardless, as the trade war between the US and China from 2018 onwards saw the powers that be in the US turn their attention to Australia — a steadfast military ally.

The US has long regarded its dependence on foreign imports of critical minerals as an Achilles heel, and through 2019 and 2020 it sought to bring Australia into its camp, even going as far as signing a critical minerals agreement in 2019.

For its part, Australia loves the attention. As an economic and diplomatic tool it has sought to play up its role as an alternative to China for buyers the world over. That said, the economic indicators for rare earths are hard to gauge, given there’s no set trade mechanism and most deals are done in private.

The future of rare earths in Australia

Lynas remains the primary producer in Australia, but as recently as 2019, Dabid Grabau, who is senior investment specialist for resources and energy at Austrade, boasted that Australia has “anywhere between four and six potential or near shovel-ready projects covering large parts of the country, spanning from Western Australia across New South Wales.”

Companies with projects in the pipeline are operators like Australian Strategic Metals (ASX:ASM), which is developing the Dubbo project in Central New South Wales, Arafura Resources (ASX:ARU,OTC Pink:ARAFF) with the Nolans project in the Northern Territory and both Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) with Browns Range and Hastings Technology Metals (ASX:HAS) with the Yanginana project in Western Australia.

Given that all the above projects are in the exploration and development stages, it goes without saying that if they come to fruition, rare earths in Australia will be a bright sector to pay attention to. It’s economics 101 to buy a product from a diverse range of suppliers, and as buyers around the world seek alternatives to China, Australia will be front and centre as an enticing option.

Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Scott Tibballs, currently hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

The global robotics industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 7.8 percent through 2028 according to the Global Industrial Robotics Market Analysis 2020. Robotics is an area of investing that is growing in Australia ― but is it a sector worth investing in?

Broadly speaking, robotics is the design and construction of robots. This can include core automation and production, industrial software, robot technology and integration of robotics. From drones to self-driving cars to toys ― robotics is a growing industry that is beginning to permeate our daily lives.


The distinction between robotics and AI can be a little confusing, but essentially think of robotics like the body and AI like the brain. Both can exist separately, and they are powerful when combined. The goal of a robot is to complete a task faster and more efficiently than a human.

What does the market look like?

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen technology sectors such as robotics accelerate as businesses have faced global challenges. Robotics has been able to help keep spaces safer by replacing humans with robots on factory lines, in eCommerce warehouses or on healthcare frontlines taking temperatures or disinfecting spaces.

What is Australia doing to support the robotics sector?

In early 2020, the Robotics Australia Network was formed to accelerate growth of the domestic robotics industry. The network aims to strengthen global competitiveness and cement Australia as a global leader in robotics.

How does the Australian robotics sector stack up?

According to the International Federation of Robotics, in a ranking of the world's most automated countries it's not even in the top 10. Number one is Singapore, followed by South Korea then Japan.

The investment space for pure robotics companies is relatively small, with greater opportunities to invest in more broader technology, AI and automation stocks.

Who are the big players in robotics stocks?

Robotics stocks in Australia are companies with a strong crossover to other technology sectors like artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Vection Technologies (ASX:VR1)
Market Cap AU$77.56 million

Vection is a multinational software company with offices in Western Australia as well as Subiaco and Casalecchio di Reno in Italy. The company uses robotics technology as well as 3D, virtual reality, augmented reality, industrial IoT and CAD solutions. The business is split into two sections: IT development and outsourced services. The company also collaborates with Autodesk Technology Centers, the Microsoft Mixed Reality Team and Cisco Systems Italy.

Bill Identity (ASX:BID)

Market Cap AU$52.97 million

Previously known as BidEnergy, Bill Identity is a series of bill management solutions leveraged using robotic process automation, which helps clients increase efficiency. The company serves customers across Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US and Europe. Bill Identity had a strong year, with total operating revenue growth of 55 percent year-on-year to US$14.6M in FY21.

What are the other ways to invest in robotics?

Another way to get into the robotics sector is investing in robotics exchange traded funds (ETFs), a popular choice that offers exposure to the industry of robotics and artificial intelligence rather than a single company. Two major ETFs in the robotics sector are:

  • BetaShares Global Robotics and Artificial Intelligence ETF (ASX:RBTZ)
  • The ROBO Global Robotics and Automation ETF (ARCA:ROBO)

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

parliament house in the evening. canberra, australia

Cannabis remains a hot-button issue in Australia, and the country's political parties have diverse opinions. Here's a look at what they think.

Cannabis reform at a national level still seems far off for Australians, but what do each of the country's major political parties think about the drug?

At the time of publication, the Australian federal parliament had members in the House of Representatives from nine political parties, and senators from nine political parties as well.

Let's look at what Australia's four major political parties think about cannabis, followed by a brief overview of the minor parties in power. We'll also run through the cannabis-specific political parties not currently elected.


Australian Liberal Party

The Australian Liberal Party is in power right now, and it has a conservative view on drug policy, including cannabis, which it believes should remain on the illicit and illegal drug list. The party also has policies around deporting drug dealers. Although it has endorsed research on medicinal cannabis through the Therapeutics Goods Association (TGA), it has since removed all references and specific policies regarding cannabis from its platform.

Current Health Minister Greg Hunt has expressed concern over the Australian Capital Territory's decision to legalise cannabis given that it directly conflicts with federal law. He previously told ABC Radio Melbourne that cannabis presents a "significant mental health risk."

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has joked that he "won't be partaking" in cannabis. He was also unmoved by activists from the Who Are We Hurting campaign who delivered a pound of weed to Kirribilli House on April 20, 2020, and then brought AU$420,000 in crisp green AU$100 bills to Parliament House on the same date in 2021.

Australian Labour Party

The stance from the Australian Labour Party is in support of medicinal cannabis only. Similar to the Australian Liberal Party, there is no public policy mention of cannabis or marijuana in the Australian Labour Party's mandate.

State members in Queensland and New South Wales have publicly called for the decriminalisation of cannabis, with some going so far as to call for legalisation; however, at this stage the official party line isn't pushing for legalising.

The Nationals

Running on a platform that focuses on rural Australian communities and agriculture, the Nationals often rely on more conservative policies. As part of a coalition government with the Australian Liberal Party, the party line for the Nationals is thought to be aligned as "no" to decriminalisation and "no" to legalisation, but "yes" to medicinal cannabis that is heavily regulated through the TGA.

Australian Greens

The Australian Greens have been proudly (and loudly) lobbying for cannabis legalisation for many years as a major policy. The current party line is to legalise the production, sale and use of cannabis and cannabis products for recreational use, whilst regulating growth and possession for personal and medicinal use.

Minor parties in the House of Representatives

  • Centre Alliance — Member of Parliament Rebekha Sharkie spoke in support of a medicinal cannabis bill in February 2021 and believes medicinal cannabis should be included in the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
  • Independent — There are no public policies available for members of parliament Helen Haines, Zali Steggall or Andrew Wilkie, although Wilkie was the major push behind legalising hemp as a material and food source in Australia.
  • Katter's Australia Party — Bob Katter is not pro-legalisation, and joked in parliament, "I didn't know marijuana was legal in Canberra and I can now understand why the country has gone to pot."
  • Liberal Party of Queensland — No public policy; presumed to be the same as the Australian Liberal Party and Nationals as they are a coalition.
  • United Australia Party — The party wants a standard on synthetic dangerous drugs, including cannabis.

Minor parties in the Senate

  • Centre Alliance — Senator Stirling Griff voted against expanding medicinal cannabis in 2017. No public policy on record.
  • Country Liberal Party — The party has no public policy on record.
  • Independent — Senator Rex Patrick voted strongly in favour of increased access to medicinal cannabis, but has previously stated that decriminalising cannabis "requires considerable thought and analysis."
  • Jacqui Lambert Network — The party has policies to address the problems facing everyday Tasmanians in accessing medicinal cannabis, and believes it should be a doctor/patient issue and not a political/bureaucratic issue.
  • Pauline Hanson's One Nation — The party has stated, "One Nation upholds the right of Australians to access medical cannabis, that may give them quality of life and life itself." However, it has a history of blocking motions like the 2017 bid to fast-track medicinal cannabis for the terminally ill.

Pro-cannabis parties in Australian politics

There are several smaller pro-cannabis parties; of particular note is the Legalise Cannabis Australia Party. It was first founded as Help End Marijuana Prohibition (known by its clever and catchy acronym HEMP) in 1993 by Nigel Quinlan, who ran under the candidate name Nigel Freemarijuana.

The group, which changed its name to Legalise Cannabis Australia in September 2021, has a number of policies around legalising and regulating cannabis for personal use, industrial use and medicinal use.

A subgroup of Legalise Cannabis Australia is the Legalise Cannabis Queensland Party, which was officially approved by the Australian Electoral Commission in September 2020 and ran in the October 2020 state election. The party garnered 2.2 percent of the vote, the fourth highest overall. The Legalise Cannabis Western Australia Party won two Upper House seats in the 2021 state election.

The Reason Party (formerly the Australian Sex Party) advocates for cannabis to be legalised, regulated and taxed. The party is currently only represented in the Victorian Legislative Council by Fiona Patton and is not represented at a federal level. Patten recently chaired a foundational committee that provided a report on findings and recommendations on cannabis policy to the Victorian parliament.

Don't forget to follow us @INN_Australia for real-time updates!

Securities Disclosure: I, Ronelle Richards, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.