Talison Lithium operates the Greenbushes mine in WA’s South West.

Green light for Kwinana lithium plant

Tuesday, 6 September, 2016 - 15:59

A $400 million lithium processing plant to be built in Kwinana has received the green light, with West Perth company MSP Engineering to act as head contractor.

Business News revealed last week that the proponents of the plant, Chinese company Tianqi Lithium, would be seeking Development Assessment Panel approval for the project.

Today, Tianqi’s Australian subsidiary announced it had received final approval from its parent company to move forward with the plant, on a 20-hectare site on Mason Road to be leased from LandCorp.

The final value of the project is 25 per cent higher than the number cited in the DAP documents last week, which Business News understands is due to design enhancements.

The plant will produce 24,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide annually, sourcing its concentrate from the Greenbushes lithium mine in the state’s South West.

That mine produces one third of the world’s lithium supply.

Tianqi has a 51 per cent stake in the operator of that mine, Talison Lithium, with NYSE-listed Ablemarle controlling the remainder of the venture. Tianqi Lithium’s parent company, Chengdu Tianqi Industry Group, acquired Talison in 2013, before selling 49 per cent to US-based Rockwood Holdings, which is owned by Ablemarle, about a year later.

Production at the Kwinana facility will commence in 2018 and will be exported for use in battery manufacturing..

Business News understands MSP Engineering will act as head contractor after leading the feasibility study.

Tianqi Lithium Australia general manager Phil Thick said construction was expected to begin within two months.

“Tianqi’s lithium plant ticks a lot of boxes for Western Australia and is set to become a significant contributor to the state’s economy,” he said.

“Building the plant here in WA will create construction and production jobs; it adds value to the minerals before they are exported; it encourages innovation and the production process is safe and environmentally sound.

“Importantly, the batteries ultimately produced are key components of the new energy world, which helps the environment and our planet.

“Tianqi’s plant will produce the highest quality lithium hydroxide which is required in the electric vehicle and high end energy storage markets.”

State Development Minister Bill Marmion said lithium demand was rapidly rising due to usage in 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 said.

“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.”

It isn’t the only recent win in value added manufacturing for WA either, with the Yara Pilbara Nitrates technical ammonia nitrate plant marking its official opening in August.

Production will get under way at that facility, near Karratha, before year’s end.