Challenges within the minerals industry R&D landscape in Australia

Jenkin, Revell

Presented at the Preconcentration Digital Conference November 2020


This paper presents an analysis of significant Australian-based R&D programs focussed on the minerals industry, which was commissioned by CRC ORE. The landscape analysis may assist organisations with R&D management issues including program creation, program/partner selection, portfolio management, and public policy settings. The dataset was collated early in 2020, and contains programs being conducted by or with Australian-based ‘Research Service Providers’ (RSPs), most notably Universities and CSIRO. It does not include R&D being conducted in-house by mining and METS companies, or by them with other organisations that are not RSP’s.

The dataset contains 65 R&D programs, with total annual cash funding of $229m (70% from industry and 30% from government). The total funding compares unfavourably with the combined R&D expenditure of Australian universities and CSIRO of over $12b, and minerals industry export revenues of over $200b. The R&D landscape is analysed by program numbers and funding, technical domain, geography, and funding source. Areas of relative strength are noted in ‘mineral processing’, CSIRO Minerals, and the CRC program.

Areas of relative weakness are noted in ‘bulk materials handling and logistics’, ‘tailings and waste management’, and ‘social and community’. The field of preconcentration is noted as a current area of R&D strength, but it is under significant threat with the impending completion of CRC ORE. The overall R&D landscape is characterised by a majority of small-scale programs, low levels of industry coordination, a low focus on step-change innovation, and total funding lower than should be expected for such a large critical industry. It is hoped that key stakeholders in the Australian minerals industry, particularly governments, and mining and METS companies, reflect on the analysis and act to address holistic weaknesses.


1.Research Director – Mineral Processing, CSIRO. B.E (Chem.), MBA, GAICD, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

2. GM Research & Innovation, CRC ORE, B. Sc. (Hons) Chem. Eng, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The authors acknowledge the Board and management of CRC ORE, who commissioned this work, and the assistance of many institutions and individuals in identifying and sourcing data on significant R&D programs. Andrew Jenkin was an independent consultant at the time of drafting this report, and a member of the CSIRO Minerals Advisory Council. He has subsequently joined CSIRO as Research Director – Mineral Processing. The authors accept responsibility for all limitations and potential errors in this work

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