Albe­marle to build lithium plant in WA

The West Australian - - WEST BUSINESS - Stu­art McKin­non

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.

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