Australia, which supplies nearly half of the world’s lithium and is a major producer of rare earths, wants to move up the vital metals value chain to reduce global dependence on China, which dominates the sector.
The proposed facility in Western Australia, the country’s largest mining state, will be the first in Australia to produce active cathode precursors of 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 Quinana-Rockingham strategic industrial estate for the proposed plant, which is expected to cost up to A$1 billion ($678 million). The accompanying statement did not specify the terms of the agreement.
Matt Ducey, acting CEO of IGO, 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.
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)