The world’s biggest hard-rock lithium producer has moved to put its foot on emerging industry in WA, stepping closer to development of a downstream processing plant in WA.
China’s Tianqi lithium already controls a majority stake in the Greenbushes mine, the world’s premier producer of lithium concentrate from spodumene.
It is now pushing forward with plans to build a $400 million lithium hydroxide plant in Kwinana.
It will be fed by about 161,000 tonnes of lithium concentrate trucked from Greenbushes a year, and is planned to enter production within two years.
Development plans go before a State Government development assessment panel on Wednesday, and it is understood the Tianqi board will make a decision on giving the project the go-ahead in China next week.
If approved, construction is due to start within a month, and the plant would become WA’s first major downstream lithium processing operation, aimed at maintaining the company’s domination of the local lithium industry as upstart producers race to be the first new suppliers of a growing demand in China and beyond.
Greenbushes already supplies more than a third of global demand for lithium concentrate, but its owners – Tianqi and fellow lithium major Albemarle – have kept increasingly used Greenbushes product in their own supply chains.
In addition to lithium hydroxide the plant will produce about 44,000t a year of sodium sulphate for export, along with 176,000t of aluminosilicate and 26,000t of gypsum as by-products to be sold into the local construction and agricultural industries.