Wednesday 18th Jul, 2018

New lithium plant proposed for Kwinana

Lithium metal. Photo: Creative Commons / Dnn87
Lithium metal. Photo: Creative Commons / Dnn87

A new WA plant could be producing 44,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide in 2021, after a joint venture announced on May 4 it had selected a site in Kwinana, south of Perth, for its new project.

The Western Australia Lithium joint venture, which is 50:50 between Kidman Resources and Chilean firm SQM, announced it had entered into an exclusive option with WA’s Land Authority to lease a site in the Kwinana Strategic Industrial Area, which sits near key bulk and intermodal export facilities.

“Putting our foot on the Kwinana site is a major step in Kidman delivering its strategy of being an ASX-listed integrated manufacturer of battery-grade refined lithium,” Kidman Resources chief executive Martin Donohue said.

The Kwinana site was chosen by the joint venture after it looked at three sites in the region. “The benefits of the Kwinana site vastly outweigh those of the other sites we considered,” Donohue said.

The deal signed with the Land Authority provides for a two-year option period, during which time a final set of lease terms can be agreed.

Meanwhile, WA Lithium is advancing its definitive feasibility study for a refinery on the site, which it expects to release later this year.

It says it’s currently planning to commission the refinery in 2021, with an initial nameplate capacity of 44,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide, or 37,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate.

The refinery is expected to employ roughly 400 during construction, and 150 full time.

It will be supplied by the joint-venture’s Mt Holland Lithium Project, which is under development, and is estimated to contain 189 million tonnes of 1.5% lithium oxide, or the equivalent of 7.03 million tonnes of lithium carbonate.

WA premier Mark McGowan said the announcement of a new plant represented the significant opportunity presented by the lithium sector to the state’s economy.

“The state government will continue to support the development of renewable energy technologies,” McGowan said.

$5.5 million will be included in the state budget for the Minerals Research Institute of WA, to support development and manufacturing of technology metals and renewable energy sources, McGowan announced.