Greenbushes expansion quarrel heads to court

A dispute over expansion plans at the Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia will go to trial in October.

The Western Australian Supreme Court has set a trial date of October 16-31 for Global Advanced Metal’s (GAM) injunction action against Talison Lithium.

GAM and Talison are going to court primarily over the latter’s planned expansion of the Greenbushes mine in Western Australia to a 1.34Mt/y capacity. GAM believes the proposal intrudes on its mineral rights in the area, particularly with regards to tantalum production.

GAM holds non-lithium rights at Greenbushes and announced plans in early 2018 to launch direct tantalum mining at the operation within 12 months.

The company produces tantalum — primarily used for the production of capacitors in electronic devices — as a by-product of lithium extraction at Greenbushes secondary processing facility. GAM first lodged its injunction action against Talison in July last year.

“It is GAM’s strongly held view that Talison’s expansion of lithium mining and processing at Greenbushes, without complying with its contractual obligations to GAM, threatens to sterilise and waste tantalum resources at Greenbushes,” GAM said in a statement.

“GAM therefore initiated legal action to ensure that Talison’s expansion is carried out in a way that recognises GAM’s rights to tantalum and other minerals.”

While GAM chief executive officer Andrew O’Donovan acknowledged that lithium production is of significant benefit to the WA economy and wishes for it to continue, he cited that lithium expansion at Greenbushes could not contractually come at the expense of GAM’s tantalum and other mineral rights.

“The nature of the orebody at Greenbushes is such that the proposed expansion of lithium mining and processing in its current form will irreparably sterilise tantalum owned by GAM,” Donovan said.

“The mining agreement between our two companies, which moderates this trade-off between lithium and the other mineral rights is being ignored by Talison.”

A spokesperson from Talison commented to Australian Mining, “A hearing date has been set for October 16 and we look forward to a final resolution of this matter.

“We remain confident in our legal position and in the meantime are getting on with the job of expanding the Greenbushes lithium operation, creating hundreds of new jobs and building on the success of this significant contributor to the West Australian economy.

“[The CGP2 project] remains on track to be completed in the second quarter of 2019.”

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