BHP Nickel West central to WA’s battery manufacturing mission

BHP Nickel West. Image: BHP.

Western Australia could soon become a lithium-ion battery cathode manufacturer, according to a Department of Industry, Innovation and Science report.

Commissioned by the Future Batteries Industry Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC), the report proposes that a cathode precursor plant can be constructed at the CSIRO’s Waterford facilities in Western Australia, which includes the use of  BHP Nickel West’s nickel sulphate pilot plant.

It is expected that the pilot plant will provide valuable information toward how to build industrial scale cathode precursor plants locally.

Western Australia produces nine out of 10 minerals that are needed for the manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, making the study vital to expanding the state’s economy as the world becomes more battery-focussed.

“The report demonstrates that Western Australia has the potential to become a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub for battery materials,” Western Australia’s Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

“This will help diversify the Western Australian economy, create jobs and place Australia at the forefront of the global battery revolution.

“The McGowan Government’s Future Battery Industry Strategy continues to WA’s battery chain capability and invest in research to lead the nation’s growth in the uptake of opportunities across the whole global battery value chain.”

The global lithium-ion battery market is expected to hit $136 billion by 2030, with the report showing the potential Australia has in this market.

The report shows that Australia provides most commodities used in lithium-ion batteries, but receives little to no value from battery manufacturing.

“This is illustrated in the lithium value chain shown below where the production of concentrate yielded a revenue of $1.13 billion for Australia in 2017, with no revenue obtained from the major value-adding steps, including precursor production that was worth $22.1 billion,” the report stated.

A total of $300,000 has been pledged by the FBICRC for the plant project’s scoping phase, which verifies its technical and processing potential.

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