Lithium is the current hot topic in Western Australia, powering the latest mining boom and building a new multi-million dollar industry within the State.
In July 2017 Britain announced that it would ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, following a similar statement from France. Given the vast distances that Western Australians need to cover, a similar move would not currently be feasible in Australia. The Western Australian Premier, Mark McGowan, is looking into future opportunities for lithium miners as the global shift to electric vehicles develops.
‘’WA is in a prime position to capitalise on the growing world market for lithium,’’ Mr McGowan said.
In November 2017 the Australian Financial Review published an article including an interview from Western Australia's Chief Scientist, Professor Peter Klinken. Professor Klinken said, ''there is great value in exploring the viability of lithium-ion battery manufacturing in the State.’’ Hightlighting the real possibilities that Western Australia possesses to progress the resources sector and look to further processing of lithium to reach the desired end product, a lithium-ion battery.
Australia, as the world’s largest producer of lithium, has the competitive advantage as a producer of some of the raw battery materials to capture a greater share of the value present in the booming battery supply chain. Western Australian miners are beginning to invest in advancing further downstream – Professor Klinken said it is time that WA ''packages it all together in the interest of the State and of the nation.’’
A recent report by The Economist describing Australia as the new frontier for battery materials also noted Australia's comparative advantages as a supplier for battery producers due to lower political, legal and business risks as well as a lack of ethical concerns surrounding supplies sourced elsewhere.
In other lithium news, the McGowan Government has welcomed Tianqi Lithium's final investment decision to expand its processing plant currently under construction at Kwinana. The project will take spodumene from the Greenbushes mine south-east of Bunbury and process and refine it into battery-grade lithium hydroxide for export.
Last month the Western Australian Government launched a $16.7 million New Industries Fund which Innovation Minister Dave Kelly has described as ''primarily a vehicle to support new and emerging businesses and create WA jobs.’’ This provides a great platform to further encourage industry growth, particularly in booming sectors such as the lithium industry, which in turn works towards building lithium batteries.
Minister Kelly further stated: ‘’The State has attracted interest in downstream value-adding of lithium. Tianqi Lithium has commenced construction of a $700 million processing facility in Kwinana which will create more than 650 jobs across operation and construction.’’
‘’The State hopes to secure more downstream processing of lithium and other minerals, and would be interested to engage with any substantive companies who are interested in manufacturing lithium-ion batteries in WA.’’
Pilbara Minerals' 100%-owned Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project, described as the world's leading lithium development project is located 120km from Port Hedland in Western Australia’s resource-rich Pilbara region. It is one of the biggest new lithium ore (spodumene) deposits in the world, with a globally significant hard rock spodumene resource.
For more information on Pilgangoora (as seen in the image at the top of the article) please go to their website.
As the world begins to look to batteries rather than fuel, Western Australia is ready to utilise its abundance of battery metals.