Albemarle and Mineral Resources (MinRes) have made their first major decision as joint venture partners of the Wodgina lithium operation, placing it on care and maintenance due to challenging market conditions for the commodity.
The two companies have made the move just as they have completed their 60:40 partnership agreement for the Western Australian site, now called the MARBL joint venture.
Their decision to halt operations has been described as the best option to preserve Wodgina’s value as a world-class spodumene orebody for the future.
MinRes is assessing the implications for its Wodgina employees and where possible, is exploring options to redeploy them across its other operations.
“Given the current challenging market conditions for lithium, the MARBL lithium joint venture believes there is more value to be delivered in the long term by placing Wodgina on care and maintenance now,” MinRes managing director Chris Ellison said.
“This was a tough decision, but the right decision, and we are working with affected employees to try to deploy as many of them as possible across MinRes’ other operations.
“The MARBL lithium joint venture will regularly review market conditions with a view to resuming spodumene concentrate production at Wodgina as market demand requires.
“We remain confident in lithium’s long-term positive fundamentals. Wodgina is a world-class asset with a mine life of more than 30 years.”
Wodgina’s transition to care and maintenance is expected to take around four weeks.
As operations stop at Wodgina, the joint venture is turning its attention to the Kemerton hydroxide facility, where Albemarle is currently building the first two 25,000 tonnes per annum lithium hydroxide conversion units.
Under the sale agreement, Albemarle must fund and construct infrastructure at Kemerton, which will be commissioned in stages starting in the first half of 2021.
Once construction is complete, Kemerton will provide lithium hydroxide to battery makers all over the world.