Source: The West Australian
The world’s biggest lithium miner has been given environmental approval to build a massive processing plant near Bunbury, paving the way for hundreds of new jobs in the South West.
Albemarle Corporation will need 500 workers when it builds the $1 billion lithium plant in the Kemerton industrial area. A further 500 jobs will be created when the plant starts producing the 100,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide its five processing trains are being designed to handle each year.
Lithium hydroxide is a critical ingredient in the lithium-ion batteries which power, among other things, electric vehicles.
It is made from spodumene ore concentrate, which Albemarle mines at the sprawling Greenbushes mine.
Clearing the last environmental hurdle is a win for the State Government, which has established a lithium and energy materials industry taskforce to capitalise on WA’s position as the source of more than half the world’s lithium.
“The Albemarle lithium plant is another step closer to setting up its operations, which will generate hundreds of local jobs,” Premier Mark McGowan said.
“I’m pleased to see this project progressing, following my positive discussions with Albemarle’s directors during my visit to Washington this year.”
Mining lobby group AMEC has predicted the global trade in lithium batteries will soar from $165 billion to $2 trillion over the next eight years.
WA Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the Environment Protection Auth-ority attached conditions to its approval.
Albemarle, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, is waiting on a handful of Federal approvals before it can make a final investment decision, which observers say is a formality because the plant is considered a top priority.
Albemarle’s joint venture partner at Greenbushes, China’s Tianqi Lithium, is building a $700 million processing plant at Kwinana.
The two companies spent $320 million expanding Greenbushes and are planning a further $600 million upgrade so the mine can produce 2.3 million tonnes of concentrate a year from 2021.
Other companies with downstream lithium processing plans in WA include Chile’s SQM/Kidman Resources joint venture (Kwinana), Neometals (Kalgoorlie) and Mineral Resources (Wodgina).