Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity

THE Association of Mining and Exploration Companies has urged federal and Western Australian governments to support the growing lithium sector.
Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity Australia urged to grasp lucrative lithium opportunity

Construction of Tianqi Lithium Australia's stage two hydroxide plant at Kwinana.

Kristie Batten

AMEC yesterday launched the report A lithium industry in Australia: A value chain analysis for downstreaming Australia’s lithium resources, prepared by Future Smart Strategies and supported by Neometals, Lithium Australia, Altura Mining, SinoSteel, Coogee Chemicals and Pilbara Minerals.
The report outlines the opportunity Australia has to expand along the estimated US$2 trillion lithium value chain in the next two years.

Already home to the world’s largest hard rock mine at Greenbushes, the lithium sector is set to grow exponentially thanks to new mines at Mt Cattlin, Mt Marion, Pilgangoora and Wodgina.

The report notes the Australian lithium industry will contribute great value on a “business as usual” basis, but the country would be in danger of losing market share in the downstream space, experience a negative balance of trade impact due to the need to reimport value-added products, and miss industry opportunities for innovation and commercialisation.

There are already numerous downstream lithium plants in WA at various stages of construction and planning.

AMEC CEO Warren Pearce said the report was a call to action for Australia to undertake greater downstream processing.

“Australia produces over 60% of the world’s lithium, dominating one end of the value chain. Australia also produces all of the minerals (other than soda ash) that are needed to manufacture lithium rechargeable batteries,” he said.
“Australia has a series of comparative advantages that we can capitalise on, if government and industry collaborate to achieve greater downstream processing.”

The report made three recommendations: build awareness of Australia’s lithium opportunities; get the policy settings right; and act now.
“It is important that all levels of government engage with industry to grasp this opportunity,” Pearce said. 

“We need government to support industry to create new jobs and revenues for local communities.
“We have a window of roughly two years before it is set where battery components and batteries will be manufactured and by whom.
“If we work collaboratively Australia could take a leading role in one of the breakthrough energy technologies. The time to act is now.”

The WA government welcomed the release of the report, with Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston acknowledging that downstream processing would help to diversify the economy.

"The McGowan government is committed to supporting investment in lithium and battery materials to create job,” he said.

"Western Australia's lithium reserves, combined with our technical skills, industry capabilities and our close proximity to the manufacturing centres in Asia, make our state well placed to capitalise on the growing needs of the battery market."