The Kwinana industrial area is set to play a pivotal role in the new energy revolution. Western Australia has the largest deposit of hard rock spodumene, the valuable mineral that will power the next generation of smart phones and electric vehicles. Chinese lithium producer – Tianqi Lithium has well aware of the opportunities in the state and is currently constructing the world’s largest lithium hydroxide processing plant in Kwinana.
Phil Thick – Tianqi Lithium Australia general manager said there was more lithium in WA than anywhere else in the world.
“Just about every manufacturer in the world has come out with pretty strong and aggressive targets for production of electric vehicles over the next five or 10 years and that’s what’s driving the demand for lithium,”
Despite the recent price fluctuations, demand for battery grade lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate is expected to grow by 18% per year until 2026, with Western Australia set to become the largest producer in the world, followed closely by Chile.
Other companies such as Covalent Lithium (SQM and Kidman Resources JV) are also planning lithium processing plants in the Kwinana area.
“It’s one of the best industrial strips anywhere in the world because of the inter-relationship of all the businesses,” Phil Thick told Today Tonight on Tuesday..
“We use caustic, we use sulphuric acid so we’ll get those from other businesses along the Kwinana strip.”
Historically, Western Australia has a bad reputation for not adding value to our raw materials such as iron ore before export. A different strategy is underway for the lithium industry, with operations such as Tianqi’s $700 million Kwinana refinery set to open early next year and turn spodumene rock into lithium hydroxide. The government are also looking into the economic benefit of manufacturing lithium ion batteries within the state, although will only do so if it is economically viable.
With up to 500 construction workers on site, stage one of Tianqi’s Kwinana refinery is about 75 per cent complete, with stage two under way. Once finished, it will be the biggest lithium hydroxide plant in the world Mining experts say the value of lithium exports will not exceed the iron ore sector, but suggest it could be a more sustainable and innovative industry.