Lithium push pow­ers up

Pilbara News - - News - Stu­art McK­in­non

A task­force to in­ves­ti­gate how WA can cash in on a “once-in-agen­er­a­tion” lithium and bat­tery min­er­als boom will make rec­om­men­da­tions to the State Gov­ern­ment within six months.

An­nounc­ing the task­force in May­lands last Thurs­day in front of two Tesla demon­stra­tion Model X elec­tric cars, Mines Min­is­ter Bill John­ston said the down­stream pro­cess­ing of lithium and other bat­tery min­er­als in WA could cre­ate thou­sands of highly skilled, high-pay­ing jobs.

He said the task­force, con­sist­ing of se­nior Gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives, would en­gage with com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing in the sec­tor and take ad­vice from an in­dus­try ref­er­ence group.

It would present a list of rec­om­men­da­tions to the State Gov­ern­ment in Novem­ber as to how WA could best cap­ture the lithium-ion bat­tery op­por­tu­nity.

A strat­egy would also be de­vel­oped to po­si­tion WA as a world leader in new en­ergy ma­te­ri­als.

Mr John­ston noted the State Gov­ern­ment had al­ready com­mit­ted $5.5 mil­lion to the Min­er­als Re­search In­sti­tute of WA to se­cure a Co-op­er­a­tive Re­search Cen­tre for New En­ergy In­dus­try in WA. CRCs are a Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment­backed pro­gram aimed at link­ing re­searchers with in­dus­try to gen­er­ate com­mer­cial op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Lithium and other com­modi­ties in WA such as nickel, cobalt, man­ganese, graphite and cop­per are key in­gre­di­ents in the lithium-ion bat­ter­ies that drive elec­tric cars.

Mr John­ston said WA had all the el­e­ments to pro­duce lithium-ion bat­ter­ies, mean­ing it was in the box seat to cap­i­talise on the growth in the elec­tric ve­hi­cle in­dus­try.

The es­tab­lish­ment of the task­force co­in­cides with the re­lease of a pre­lim­i­nary re­port by Re­gional Development Aus­tralia, which makes a case for WA be­com­ing a “Lithium Val­ley” for new en­ergy, sim­i­lar to the way Sil­i­con Val­ley in the US is known as the global hub of the tech sec­tor. As­so­ci­a­tion of Min­ing and Ex­plo­ration Com­pa­nies chief ex­ec­u­tive War­ren Pearce said WA needed to at­tract in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies that had the tech­nol­ogy to process bat­tery min­er­als.

“This is a once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion op­por­tu­nity, the sort WA hasn’t seen since iron ore in the 1960s — to­day’s an­nounce­ment is a first step to po­si­tion­ing our­selves to work our way fur­ther down the value chain,” he said.

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