Covid causes further Kemerton delays

The CSIRO

Further delays are expected in the construction of Albemarle’s Kemerton lithium hydroxide plant near Bunbury in Western Australia (WA) after 13 workers tested positive for Covid-19.

According to a statement for the WA Department of Health, of the 99 close and casual contacts identified on site, 12 have tested positive, a further 73 have returned a negative result with an additional 14 either with results pending or who are yet to be tested.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said all of the close contacts are currently in quarantine and construction at the site had been closed down.

“The department is working with the company to make sure we quarantine, isolate and test everyone who is impacted,” he said.

McGowan said the government would meet with industry leaders on Friday to discuss Covid-19 safety plans for a range of organisations.

In November, Albemarle announced it had further delayed the completion of the second stage of the plant (Kemerton II) until the second half of 2022.

According to the company’s third quarter earnings update, Albemarle remains on track to complete construction of the first stage of the Kemerton plant (Kemerton I) by the end of the year with sales expected to begin in the second half of 2022.

However, due to ongoing labour shortages and pandemic-related travel restrictions in Western Australia, the second stage of the Kemerton plant is now expected to complete construction in the second half of 2022.

In August, the company announced that the planned construction of Kemerton II had been delayed by around three months until early 2022, again due to labour shortages.

Kemerton is expected to have an initial capacity of around 50,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) with the ability to expand to 100,000 tonnes over time once fully operational.

The Kemerton processing plant forms the basis of Albemarle’s joint venture with Mineral Resources.

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