The board of the Perth-based, Chinese-listed company voted unanimously to approve the investment to fast-track the expansion of the plant from 24,000 tonnes per annum to 48,000tpa.
It follows a visit to Perth last week by Tianqi chairman Jiang Weiping and CEO Vivian Wu from China.
“Tianqi Lithium board’s unanimous support for this Stage 2 expansion is a huge vote of confidence in our Australian operations and will see the company spearheading the Western Australian lithium industry,” Tianqi Lithium Australia general manager Phil Thick said.
“Ordering of components and equipment for Stage 2 will start in earnest now and the Kwinana processing plant site is expected to remain a hive of activity with Stage 1 creating 500 local jobs which will continue under Stage 2.
“Long term permanent jobs at the plant will increase from 115 to 170 and we are set to maintain our 80-85% local content materials target.”
Stage 1 is expected to be completed by the end of next year, with Stage 2 to follow at the end of 2019.
“We will be ready very soon to service global customers who are keen and looking now for the highest quality product to improve the efficiency and life of the batteries that they will produce and will come into the market in the next few years,” Thick said.
To meet this expanded capacity, Tianqi is investing its share of $320 million to double production at the Greenbushes mine, creating a further 200 construction jobs and up to 60 operational positions.
Tianqi owns 51% of Talison Lithium, which operates the Greenbushes mine.
Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan welcomed news of the expansion.
“Demand for lithium continues to grow, fuelled by its use in renewable energy storage and electric car batteries,” he said.
“Combining work at the processing plant and the mine, the growth in Tianqi’s operations is expected to create more than 735 construction and operational jobs for workers in Perth’s south and WA’s South-West.”