Lithium push powers up
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.