Bright future for WA lithium

23 April, 2024

The importance of attracting international investment to WA’s lithium sector was highlighted at the Paydirt 2024 Battery Minerals Conference in Perth. Minister for Mines and Petroleum, David Michael, said in less than a decade, WA had established a multi-billion-dollar battery and critical minerals processing industry.

Michael emphasised the state’s abundant reserves of these minerals.

“With a rich endowment of these minerals, I look forward to positioning Western Australia as a destination of choice for the responsible sourcing of future-facing commodities that will drive global decarbonisation efforts,” he said.

“I’m taking a keen interest in the minerals critical in their make-up, but of course I am also curious about the provenance of these minerals, given a typical EV requires six times the mineral inputs of a conventional car.”

Michael noted the substantial mineral requirements for new units of power generation. These have surged by 50% since 2010 due to the increasing adoption of renewables. He stressed the importance of scaling up global investments in Western Australia. Primarily to expand the state’s capacity in advanced critical minerals processing and battery chemical manufacturing.

“Our opportunity is to build upon the three lithium hydroxide refineries currently being commissioned or constructed by Tianqi, Albemarle and Covalent Lithium,” he said.

“At full capacity, these three refineries will produce up to 200,000 tonnes per annum, enough to power around four million electric vehicles.

“This would make Western Australia one of the world’s top producers of this ingredient that feeds into lithium-ion batteries.”

Albemarle has invested around $2 billion to build the world-leading Kemerton lithium hydroxide processing plant near Bunbury in the south west of WA.

Additionally, Covalent Lithium’s refinery near Kwinana will receive around 45,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year from the nearby Mount Holland lithium mine.

Furthermore, the substantial profits generated by operations such as Greenbushes, including its lithium mine and refinery were highlighted. The operations totalled nearly $6.3 billion last year.

Western Australia could be positioned as a major global player in the critical minerals sector. This can be credited to significant opportunities presented by emerging assets like Liontown Resources’ Kathleen Valley project.

As the state progresses towards net-zero targets, its burgeoning critical minerals industry promises to be a focal point of attention for investors and stakeholders worldwide.