Kwinana dubbed heart of ‘Lithium Valley’, set to play significant role in WA economy

The Tianqi Lithium Kwinana facility. Picture: Tianqi Lithium Australia
The Tianqi Lithium Kwinana facility. Picture: Tianqi Lithium Australia

THE City of Kwinana is poised to become the heart of ‘Lithium Valley’ as the significance of the mineral to WA’s economy was discussed at a forum today.

State Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnson welcomed the release of The Lithium Valley report and announced a new taskforce to help make WA a world leader in lithium and energy materials.

WA is the world’s leading producer of lithium and is uniquely placed to capitalise on the rising growth of battery use and technologies.

There is enormous potential to increase downstream processing of lithium and other energy materials in WA, creating long-term job opportunities for West Australians.

The taskforce will oversee development of a Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy to build on WA’s competitive advantages, and to develop a world-leading energy materials industry that maximises benefits to WA and creates jobs.

It will be chaired by the Mr Johnson and will consist of senior government representatives.

The taskforce will engage with key companies and will be informed by an industry stakeholder reference group.

It is expected the taskforce will present recommendations to the State Government within six months.

As part of the State Budget, $5.5 million was announced in provisional funding to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), to support development and manufacturing of technology metals and renewable energy sources.

City of Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said Kwinana was set to be the heart of the new Lithium Valley.

Earlier this month Australia Lithium announced it would proceed with plans to build a new lithium refinery in Kwinana, subject to satisfactory studies.

Almost 400 jobs will potentially be created during the construction of the refinery, which is expected to start in mid-2019.

Last year Tianqui Lithium announced it would expand its processing plant currently under construction at Kwinana.

Construction on the $400 million stage 1 started in October 2016, with an initial production capacity of 24,000 tonnes per year.

The Tianqi board approved a $300 million second stage for the project, doubling the annual capacity to 48,000 tonnes.

Cr Adams said she would be pushing for the required infrastructure to support the lithium industry expansion in Kwinana.

“With Kwinana set to be the heart of a new ‘Lithium Valley’ the City would also be seeking that the State consider the additional infrastructure that is needed to support this concept becoming a reality,” she said.

“To assist in developing the supply chain associated with this new super industry, it is essential that there are improved freight and transport links such as the upgrade of Rowley Road, which has already progressed through to detailed design, and the provision of high-speed broadband to facilitate the associated research and technology sectors in the Western Trade Coast.”

Premier Mark McGowan said the availability of lithium and other energy materials in WA created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for WA.

“My Government is committed to the development of this industry to boost our economy and create long-term jobs for West Australians,” he said.

“The taskforce will do the work, in consultation with industry, to ensure our state is front and centre in production of battery technologies, and will also work to make sure these materials can be processed here in WA to maximise local jobs.”

Mr Johnston said lithium-ion batteries were among the most popular batteries in use today.

“WA possesses all the elements required to produce these batteries such as lithium, nickel, graphite and cobalt, meaning we are in the box seat to capitalise on the growth of this industry,” he said.

“This isn’t just about extracting resources from the ground. It’s also about processing them here in WA to create jobs for West Australians.

“We are determined to make the most of the opportunity, and the taskforce will set out a clear plan to establish WA as a world leader in this industry.”

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