Australia has blocked the takeover of a lithium miner by a company with links to China after advice from its Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).
Australia’s Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, issued a prohibition stopping Austroid Corporation from acquiring an additional 90.10% stake in lithium miner Alita Resources, which would have made it a full owner of the enterprise.
The company filings show that the director of Austroid Australia is a Chinese national with experience in the Chinese mining industry. Mike Que, the director of Austroid, is the son of Que Wenbin, who has a major interest in Chinese lithium battery maker Sichuan Western Resource.
This is the second time the FIRB has blocked Chinese investment into the country. In February this year, China’s Yuxiao Fund was prevented from increasing its investment in rare earths, citing national interest.
China’s diplomat, Wang Yi, criticised the move for blocking Chinese investment on national security grounds and said last week after meeting Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong that Australia should provide a “non-discriminatory business environment for Chinese enterprises to invest” in the country.
“We are at a complete loss to understand the reasons for this decision, given our full cooperation and detailed responses to any questions asked by FIRB during this process,” Austroid said in a statement.
Western countries are increasingly seeking to diversify supply chains and remove dependence on China for critical minerals. Australia mines about 53% of the world’s lithium supply and sells almost all of it to China for refining and using in products like electric vehicles and mobile phones.
Miners in Australia are now looking for ways to produce battery chemicals domestically, closer to where lithium is mined and sold to geopolitical allies like the US.
In May, Anthony Albanese, the Prime Minister of Australia, and US President Joe Biden announced that they would invest in clean energy together. New US policies are collegial for trade with Australia, allowing the country to tap into the US’s Inflation Reduction Act.