Lithium is the metal of the moment with a rapidly rising demand on the back of an increased demand for renewable energy storage and electric car batteries. The soft silver-white metal is also used in smartphones and other consumer electronics, wind turbines, ceramics, aerospace materials, glass, pyrotechnics, pharmaceuticals and induction cook tops and cookware.
According to BP Energy Outlook 2017 the number of electric cars is expected to increase from 1.2 million in 2015 to around 100 million in 2035.
In October 2016, construction commenced on a $400 million lithium processing plant in Western Australia’s South West. The new plant in Kwinana will process lithium from spodumene mined at the Greenbushes mine and is set for completion towards the end of 2018. It will have the capacity to process spodumene into 24,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide.
The Greenbushes lithium mine is the world’s largest single hard-rock deposit of lithium, part-owned by the two biggest lithium producers in the world, American company Albemarle and Chinese company Tianqi Lithium. Lithium has been produced by Talison Lithium from the Greenbushes mine for over 25 years; however this project will introduce value-add processing to extract higher value products from the raw materials.
Western Australia has 20 ASX-listed companies operating 31 lithium projects in Australia.
Key projects and companies in WA’s lithium sector:
- Mt Cattlin: after being put on hold, Galaxy is now ramping this project back up again into production.
- Mt Marion: this newly developed project is jointly owned by Neometals Ltd (13.8%), one of China's largest lithium producers Jiangxi Ganfeng Lithium Co (43.1%) and Mineral Resources (43.1%). Neometals recently announced it is looking to sell its stake.
- Pilgangoora: this project, which is under construction, is owned by Altura Mining with its first production expected early 2018.
- Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalium: this project is owned by Pilbara Minerals and is currently at pre-feasibility stage.
- Earl Grey: this project has reached development phase and is owned by Kidman Resources.
WA leads the nation in exploration and investment activity, with the State attracting a record 65 per cent of Australia's total mineral exploration expenditure. For further statistics by the Department of Mines and Petroleum click here.
Do you wish to find out more about Western Australia’s lithium sector and what opportunities there are? Please contact Stuart Russell on firstname.lastname@example.org