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Madeleine King: Helping the Pentagon to our nickel

Written by: Nick G. on 17 April 2024


(Above:original photo WA Today Nathan Hondros) 

Resources Minister Madeleine King has approved the use of government funds to ensure the US military has access to Australian nickel.

She met with the US Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment William La Plant at the Pentagon on March 8 to evaluate available options amid weakening nickel prices that led to several operating Australian nickel facilities either announcing a reduction in operations or going into care and maintenance.

“I think it’s fair to say they are keen to work with us to make sure we’re able to have a nickel industry that survives,” King said.

Nickel is known for its resistance to corrosion, and was a popular metal for coins. The US 5 cent coin was made from nickel and known as a “nickel”.

Nickel is one of eight critical minerals for military purposes.

The US National Mining Association says “Nickel can be used in steel, and this has been used for armor plating in tanks and anti-aircraft firearms. In addition, nickel is used in military batteries for propulsion and storage…A shortage of nickel would hurt goals in both the transportation and defense sectors.”

It is an essential component of high-temperature alloys used in aerospace, and essential to US imperialism’s plans to be the dominant military power in Outer Space.

Nickel (Ni) has long been widely used in batteries, most commonly in nickel cadmium (NiCd) and in the longer-lasting nickel metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeable batteries, which came to the fore in the 1980s.

It is also a major component of the lithium-ion batteries used to run electronic vehicles.

The United States is not a major source of nickel. It has only one operating nickel mine which is planned to close in 2026. Last September, the US Department of Defense provided Talon Metals, a Rio Tinto subsidiary, with $26 million to support prospecting work in Michigan and Minnesota.

Taking a leaf out of the US corporate charity book, King, prior to her trip to the Pentagon, placed nickel on the Critical Minerals List, giving nickel companies opportunity to access up to $4 billion dollars in Commonwealth funding.

Australia is one of the world’s largest producers of nickel. 

There are more than 186 nickel mines in operation globally, of which 127 are in Australia.

The five largest nickel mines here are owned by Swiss multinational Glencore, Canada’s First Quantum Minerals, Australian IGO (which is also invested in a lithium focused joint venture with Chinese partner, Tianqi Lithium Corporation, which comprises a 51% stake in the Greenbushes Lithium Mine and 100% interest in a downstream processing refinery at Kwinana producing battery grade lithium hydroxide), and two by BHP (more than 70% US-owned).

It is anyone’s guess how much of the billions of Australian taxpayers’ dollars King is prepared to splash around will go to foreign-owned miners, but she has made it perfectly clear that this is to support a supply chain directly into the murderous US military.

None of this would happen if we were a genuinely independent and anti-imperialist country.


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