Australia signs land deal for battery materials factory project

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The state of Western Australia will allocate land for a battery mineral processing facility proposed by IGO Ltd and Wyloo Metals, which is backed by billionaire Andrew Forrest, as the state strives to process more vital minerals on its territory.

Australia, which supplies nearly half of the world’s lithium and is a major producer of rare earths, is keen to move up the value chain for the critical metal to reduce global dependence on China, which dominates the sector.

The proposed facility in Western Australia, the country’s largest mining state, would be the first in Australia to produce a precursor cathode active material for nickel, cobalt and manganese, used to make components for lithium-ion batteries common in electric vehicles.

The state government announced on Friday that it will set aside 30 hectares of land in the Kwinana-Rockingham strategic industrial park for the proposed plant, which is expected to cost up to A$1 billion (US$678 million). The accompanying statement did not specify the terms of the deal.

Matt Ducey, IGO’s interim managing director, said the land acquisition was a “crucial step” to better integrate into the battery supply chain.

“We believe an area where Australia can be most competitive is in the chemical treatment of medium-cycle batteries,” Dusci said in a statement.

The final decision to invest in the project is subject to the completion of the feasibility study scheduled for mid-2024, and the search for a partner in the project with experience in the chemical treatment of batteries.

The global chemical battery manufacturer has expressed “strong interest” in the project, according to an OIG statement.

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Western Australia, which holds the majority of the country’s vital mineral reserves, is at the forefront of building processing capacity.

The proposed site would be adjacent to the Kwinana lithium hydroxide plant, which is jointly owned by IGO and China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp., which last year produced the country’s first battery-grade lithium hydroxide, key for electric vehicle batteries.

($1 = 1.4741 Australian dollars)

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