Lithium future beckons for Australia as giant refinery approved.

A fully capable mine to finished product lithium supply chain is closer to a reality with the approval of a giant lithium refinery at Bunbury, south of Perth.

The WA government has given Albemarle Corporation environmental approval for a lithium manufacturing plant in the State’s South-West.

When in operation, the Albemarle plant will process spodumene ore concentrate from the recently expanded Greenbushes mine to produce up to 100,000 tonnes of lithium hydroxide product, Premier Mark McGowan said. More than 500 full time workers will be employed.

McGowan said: “My Government’s number one priority is diversifying the economy and creating jobs for WA, so significant milestones like these support our efforts in improving the WA economy and boosting job opportunities.

“…WA has an abundant supply of lithium and other battery minerals which is why it’s vital we maximise the opportunities this industry provides, both upstream and downstream.”

US listed Albemarle, which secured its lithium ore supplies by investing in Talison Lithium Pty Ltd, is waiting on federal approvals before it can make a final investment decision.

WA’s second lithium refinery puts another element in place in what is emerging as a value-added manufacturing chain stretching from mine to end products such as lithium-ion batteries.

Two companies, Germany’s Sonnen and Alpha-ESS have committed to manufacturing lithium-ion batteries, at a site at the former Holden assembly plant at Elizabeth north of Adelaide. Planning for a separate plant is advancing in Queensland.

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Picture: electric vehicle recharge point.

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