China’s Tianqi Lithium is expanding its existing portfolio in Australia by investing A$400 million to build a lithium processing plant in Kwinana, Western Australia, with construction starting in October 2016.

The Western Australian Government expects the project to create up to 500 jobs during the two-year construction phase and more than 155 jobs once the plant is operational in late 2018. The processing plant will have an expected capacity of 24,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide per year.

Western Australian Government Development Minister, Bill Marmion, says demand for lithium is increasing rapidly due to its growing use for renewable energy storage and electric car batteries.

‘While Western Australia has been mining and exporting lithium for more than 25 years, this project introduces value-adding secondary processing into the local supply chain,’ he says.

‘This is very positive news for growing the state’s economy as we seek to take a greater role in processing our raw materials to produce higher value products.’

The Western Australian Department of State Development is currently assisting Tianqi Lithium Australia as it proceeds through project approval processes.

Tianqi Lithium Australia Pty Ltd is owned by Shenzhen Stock Exchange–listed Tianqi Lithium, a global supplier of lithium products founded in 1992. The new Kwinana plant adds to its current investment of A$900 million in Australian hard-rock lithium, including its 2012 acquisition of Talison Lithium Ltd.

Australia has a large holding of lithium, ranked top four worldwide. Lithium is of strategic global significance due to its use in items such as lightweight batteries.

Lithium will play an increasing role in the global energy sector as Australia and other countries transition to renewable energy sources to meet their obligations under the United Nations COP21 (also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference).

SOURCE: Austrade