Albemarle to build lithium plant in WA
US chemicals giant Albemarle will follow the lead of its Chinese joint venture partner in the Greenbushes lithium mine by building a lithium hydroxide plant in WA, potentially representing a near $1 billion investment in the State.
The company has applied to the Federal Department of Environment and Energy for permission to build a one-train plant capable of producing 20,000tpa at Kemerton, near Bunbury.
And Albemarle is already flagging a staged expansion of the facility via an additional four trains for a potential output of 100,000tpa by 2025.
Albemarle and Tianqi Lithium are joint venture partners in Talison Lithium, the company that controls the Greenbushes lithium mine in the South West. Talison this year announced a $320 million expansion of the mine to double capacity to 1.34mt of lithium concentrate (spodumene) a year.
The expansion of Greenbushes, already the biggest hard rock lithium mine in the world, is complicated by an ongoing legal dispute between Talison and Global Advanced Metals, which argues the upgrade will effectively waste the mine’s tantalum resource, over which it has rights. But Tianqi Lithium Australia boss Phil Thick said in September he was confident the dispute would be resolved and the expansion plans would not be affected.
Tianqi is already spending $860 million to build its own lithium hydroxide plant in Kwinana capable of producing 48,000tpa. Albemarle’s submission said its plant would process up to 1mt of spodumene a year from Greenbushes with the lithium hydroxide product being trucked from Kemerton to Fremantle for export.
The company wants to begin construction next year with first production scheduled for 2020.
Chile’s SQM is also planning a lithium refinery at either Kwinana, Kemerton or Kalgoorlie as part of its joint venture arrangement with Kidman Resources over the Mt Holland lithium project near Southern Cross.
Demand for lithium hydroxide, which is used in lithium-ion batteries, is expected to soar in coming years as the world switches from petrol-fuelled to electricity-powered vehicles.
Demand for lithium hydroxide, used in lithium-ion batteries, is expected to soar in coming years.