Analysis by Peter Roberts
The dream of a sophisticated processing and final products industry based on the key battery metal, lithium, is finally taking shape with a major player Perth’s Lithium Australia group.
Uniquely, the company is not only developing a number of lithium mineral deposits here and in Europe, but is pursuing a vision for a complete local lithium supply chain from mining to value-added product production and recycling.
This week Lithium called for expressions of interest to advance commercialisation of its LieNa process for extraction of lithium from difficult hard rock resources – essentially today’s mine wastes.
Originally developed with the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, the company has spent $12 million on R&D to date proving the process.
Now it will build a pilot plant to scale up in a project partly funded by a Cooperative Research Centres Projects grant.
Lithum Australia is also developing:
- The SiLeach hydrometalurgical process for processing lithium and other metals from silicate ores
- Its subsidiary VSPC recently commissioned a pilot plant in Brisbane to produce lithium ion battery cathodes
- And its joint venture with Envirostream Australia is rolling out Lithium’s processes to recover all metals from spent lithium and alkaline batteries.
Lithium Australia is involved in numerous lithium mining and processing projects.
In short it has become a lithium processing technology powerhouse, with the common theme the development of disruptive technology to create value-added products.
Lithum Australia is not the only battery kid on the block.
In Perth FYI Resources is building a refinery for high purity alumina used as a coating for battery separators, and Covalent Lithium is to construct a lithium hydroxide refinery.
The two plants are part of a ‘battery valley’ developing at the Kwinana industrial zone south of Perth.
All this gives hope that for once, value-added battery chemicals and metals might be one extractive industry that Australia doesn’t just leave to others.
Picture: Lithium Australia
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