WA firms grip on booming battery market, as lithium refinery site selected

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A site at Kwinana, south of Perth, has been earmarked for one of world’s biggest lithium refineries.

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Western Australia looks set to host one of the world’s biggest refineries of lithium – a key ingredient in the global battery boom that is underpinning the world’s shift to renewable energy and electric vehicles.

The potentially massive plant has been earmarked for a site at Kwinana, south of Perth, by Kidman Resources, as part of its 50:50 venture with Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile.

The JV, called Western Australia Lithium (WAL), aims to build a multi-million dollar plant at the site, south of Perth, in order to process the ore from its Earl Grey deposit – one of the largest in WA.

The refinery is expected to produce about 40,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate or lithium hydroxide each year.

As we have reported, lithium-based batteries – which have been powering our mobile phones and laptops for years now – are rapidly emerging as the favourites in both stationary and mobile battery storage, with variations on the theme used by a number of global battery and EV giants including Tesla, BYD and Sonnen.

Australia, with its abundant lithium resource, has a head start in the booming global market – but a recent report has warned that the local industry would need to act quickly and decisively to take advantage of what could be a $2 trillion value supply chain.

The ASX-listed Kidman said on Friday that “putting its foot” on the Kwinana site, which was surrounded by an abundance of critical infrastructure, was a major step forward in the company’s plant to become an integrated manufacturer of battery-grade refined lithium.

“Importantly,” said managing director and CEO Martin Donohue, the announcement follows Kidmand’s recent success in gathering a “high level of interest … from various parties seeking refined lithium offtake.”

WAL said it had entered into an option with Western Australian Land Authority to lease the site in the Kwinana Strategic Industrial Area, and was advancing a definitive feasibility study for the refinery, which was expected to be completed in late 2018.

It plans to commission the refinery in 2021 with an initial annual nameplate capacity of around 44,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide or 37,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate.

The refinery is also expected to create about 400 construction jobs and 150 full-time direct roles once in operation.

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15 Comments
  1. DJR96 6 months ago

    I trust people realise this is not the first lithium processing plant at Kwinana. The first one should start production later this year, using raw material sourced from Greenbushes in WA’s south west, which is 30% of the worlds supply now.

    • Ken Dyer 6 months ago

      Is there any truth in the rumour that the lithium is mined by children, as the knuckle dragging right wing coal lovers would have you believe? ;~)

  2. Tim Buckley 6 months ago

    Cant wait to see the Minerals Council of Australia’s press release on this new development, they have always been hot off the press on any new coal news, so with their new climate change acknowledging approach post the pressure from both BHP and RIO, they should be cheering on lower emissions commodities and industries of the future like this, surely!

    • Joe 6 months ago

      Value adding should always be front of mind, yes. Why is Australia seemingly always happy to be a quarry and nothing more.

      • RobertO 5 months ago

        Hi Joe, I am for anything that value adds to Australia processes. There is so much that we could be doing but we do so little. Look at how the Fed Gov planned for the Chinese decision to stop imports of Recyclable’s. They had 12 months’ notice but they still did nothing. Our progress to RE may also suffer the same lack of planning and we will face blackout in NSW.

        • Joe 5 months ago

          Just gotta luv The COALition, NOT. Everything on their watch turns into a crisis, emergency or looming disaster of some sort….’Budget Emergency’, ‘Debt and Deficit Disaster; ‘NDIS Funding Crisis’ ‘Gas Supply Crisis’, ‘Power Price Crisis’, and the latest…’Fuel Emergency’. If I didn’t know any better I’d say they are purposely writing all the headlines for Rupert’s Newsrags and then supplying the so called solutions to each crisis / emergency to get a ‘positive’ response from the punters. The China / Recycling issue is a real doozy, yes. Since when is exporting recyclable material to another country, China, actually recycling ? Are we that dumb here in Australia that we can’t turn a valuable resource ( recyclable waste ) into useful product. So much for Two Tonguer Turnbull’s mantra of ‘Agile and Innovative’….nothing agile or innovative in carting recyclables across the oceans to another country.

          • solarguy 5 months ago

            Welcome to Noddy Land.

      • solarguy 5 months ago

        Answer is that there is nothing between the ears old mate.

    • My_Oath 5 months ago

      The MCA didn’t utter a peep about the two other lithium refineries already under construction in Kwinana (Tianqi and Albermarle), nor about the next two that are undergoing feasibility (Kalgoorlie and Port Hedland).

  3. Ian 6 months ago
    • Joe 5 months ago

      and look who is there again….Matteo COALavan, number one cheerleader.

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