21/10/2021 - 15:51

New $18m battery alliance in WA

21/10/2021 - 15:51

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A Perth research institute focused on battery industries has signed up a consortium of companies, government agencies and universities to build a cathode precursor production pilot plant.

New $18m battery alliance in WA
The plant has received support from 18 organisations. Photo: Kumpan Electric

A Perth research institute focused on battery industries has signed up a consortium of companies, government agencies and universities to build a cathode precursor production pilot plant.

The proposed plant headed by the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre is set to produce materials used in lithium-ion batteries which can then be applied to power electric vehicles.

It forms part of a broader state effort to cultivate raw commodities available in WA including lithium, nickel and manganese into precursors needed in electric vehicle supply chains.   

Accumulatively, the investment is valued at over $18 million with $9.2 in cash and the remainder via in-kind contributions, which includes use of BHP's Nickel West sulphate pilot plant in Bentley which will be repurposed and added as part of the project. 

The pilot plant was constructed prior to BHP's $100 million Kwinana nickel plant, which commenced production in October

Project participants include BHP Nickel West, Blackstone Minerals, Calix, CSIRO, Curtin University,  IGO, Queensland University of Technology and University of Technology Sydney.

The investment also includes a $900,000 injection from the state government’s Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia.

Future Battery Industries chief executive officer Stedman Ellis said projects such as this could put WA on the cusp of capitalising on a burgeoning electrical vehicle market.

“Australia currently exports the main commodities in the form of mineral concentrates with little value added from the manufacturing of lithium-ion battery materials retained in Australia,” Mr Ellis said.

“The construction and commissioning of refining plants at Kwinana and Kemerton is changing this picture.”

Minister for mines and petroleum Bill Johnson said the pilot boosts efforts to attract global investors.

“Western Australia already exports all the minerals needed to make a battery but now we have the exciting opportunity to move into the next step of manufacturing these materials,” the minister said.

Installation and commissioning of the Cathode Precursor Production Pilot Plant is due to take place in Q1, 2022, which will be followed by an 18-month pilot campaign period. 

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