AMEC urges gov’t to grasp value of WA lithium chain

Image: Talison Lithium

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) has released a report urging  the Western Australian and federal governments to act on the opportunity provided by battery minerals, particularly lithium.

Information from a previous AMEC report has priced the lithium value chain at $2 trillion by 2025, with 60 per cent of the world’s supply produced in Western Australian mines. Western Australia is also ideally placed for the production of other minerals used in battery production, including cobalt, vanadium and graphite.

The report suggest Australia has (roughly) a “two-year window” until the value chain becomes solidified, a timeframe predicated on increasing global manufacturing capacity and South American growth in brine production.

However, Western Australia’s hard rock lithium is more easily convertible to lithium hydroxide than the brines common to South American production; Australian downstream processing of battery minerals is expected to be worth $10 billion over the next eight years, but with improved government support could be worth far more, according to AMEC.

The report, entitled A path forward for the future of Australia’s battery minerals industry, outlines recommendations for the state and federal government to deliver results in six key areas, including leadership, investment attraction, planning and coordination, state agreements, financial incentives and research.

Details from these six areas include the recommendation that companies reach out to international battery companies; public declarations of support are made from state government; monitoring of market competition; and identification and designation of battery precincts in Western Australia — the Kwinana industrial strip, for example, is identified as an ideal location for domestic battery production.

Another point cited in the report is that Australian governments should look past the “conventional wisdom” that Australia’s high-cost labour environment can’t allow the country to be cost competitive.

“A clear signal from government has to be sent to attract investment to Australia,” saying AMEC chief executive officer Warren Pearce.

“There must be a willingness to clearly plan and coordinate where a battery industry would be located and deliberate efforts made to entice international companies to come and set up in Australia.”