Australia establishes $53m national battery research hub in WA

Image: Curtin University

The Australian Government is providing a $25 million grant to an industry-led battery research centre in Perth, Western Australia, to meet the rising demand of the battery boom.

The $53 million Future Battery Industries CRC is designed to diversify the type of battery minerals extracted and processed in Western Australia.

Western Australia is the leading producer of hard rock lithium in Australia, which is in turn the largest lithium producing country in the world, having overtaken Chile for the title last year.

The CRC will help deliver an estimated $2.5 billion benefit to the Australian economy over the next 15 years, according to Curtin University deputy vice-chancellor research professor Chris Moran.

It will receive a funding of $5.5 million from the Western Australian State Government through the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia and $500,000 from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.

State governments and research partners will provide backing of $28 million cash and $82 million in kind in addition to the CRC funding.

“Western Australia was the obvious choice to host the CRC as we have all the minerals you need to make batteries and energy technologies, including nickel, lithium and cobalt,” Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

“A CRC based in Perth will provide substantial economic benefits and help create new jobs in the growing battery metals and mining equipment, technology and services sectors.”

The CRC will be led by Curtin University and supported by Tianqi Lithium, BHP Nickel West, Independence Group, Lynas, Australian Vanadium, CSIRO and 52 other industry, academic and government partners.

Exports of lithium, just one of Australia’s energy materials, have risen from $117 million in 2012 to $780 million in 2017, and are expected to rise to $1.1 billion by 2020.

“Diversifying the type of battery minerals extracted and processed in the state will enable Western Australia to move up the battery value chain beyond mining and processing,” Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan said.

“This will make the state more competitive and innovative in meeting the needs of the electric vehicle and energy storage markets.”

The Australian Government last month mapped out the 2019 critical minerals strategy, which envisions Australia as a world leader in exploration, extraction, production and the processing of critical minerals.

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