‘What Happens Next?’ podcast: Can Australia become a green energy superpower?

Image credit: Monash University
Media Release by Monash University

The Australian gold rushes of the mid-1800s made the country famous for its ore. Now its mines have the potential to become world-famous once again, thanks to the wealth of critical minerals and rare earth elements beneath our feet.

Mining for these materials is a dirty business, but our sustainable future depends on it. The technology of tomorrow that will release us from our reliance on fossil fuels can’t exist without mining. But as we begin to transition to a decarbonised future, we need to put in the work to ensure it’s a just one that keeps the planet and all its people in mind.

The latest series of Monash University’s podcast, What Happens Next?, is a must-listen during the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27). Host Dr Susan Carland is joined by experts in mining engineering, global governance and the transition to decarbonisation to discover just what makes critical minerals so critical, what it will take to extract them, and how we can learn from lessons of the past.

If we can get the shift from coal mining to critical mineral mining right, Australia is poised to become a green energy powerhouse on the global stage. The podcast examines the impact of extracting these materials on the Earth itself, and on the communities whose connections to Country and the existing mining industry run deep.


Mining engineer Dr Mohan Yellishetty, an Associate Professor at Monash University and world-leading expert in this area, discusses Australia’s potential to turn waste into wealth thanks to the tailings mounds that dot our landscape, the consequence of ores we’ve already mined. He also weighs in on the ability of the existing mining workforce – approximately 2% of Australia’s total labour force – to adapt from mainstream mining to green mining.

Dr Paris Hadfield, a research fellow at the Monash Sustainable Development Institute, tells host Dr Susan Carland about the lessons we can learn from the past to ensure our decarbonisation evolution is considerate of all the affected communities by taking a place-based approach.

Finally, Professor Susan Park, Professor of Global Governance at the University of Sydney, outlines the environmental impact of extraction mining – and weighs up whether or not its effects on the Earth are worth it in the big picture.

“We all are familiar with aluminium, iron or copper, lead, zinc. So they have been the mainstream metals, and most critical minerals always were companions, or “hitchhikers”, we call them, and that’s where they are part of it, but we never were interested in them… Now we are chasing them back again.” – Dr Mohan Yellishetty

“Part of the challenge is that communities’ identities are often tied to these jobs, these developments that are in their towns. And so, it has to be participatory.” – Dr Paris Hadfield

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What Happens Next? is available on all major podcast platforms. The program is released weekly on Friday, and will return on 18 November with a new topic.

Now in its seventh season, What Happens Next? explores some of the biggest challenges of the day. Academic and commentator Dr Susan Carland steps through the sliding doors with global experts and thought leaders to find out what could happen if we don’t change, and what the world could look like if we do.