Labor’s big plans for Australia’s battery metal industry

Image: AusGov

The Labor Party says it will boost Australia’s battery metals industry in the event Bill Shorten is elected as the next Prime Minister.

Labor has announced it intends to partner with state and territory governments to develop battery metal manufacturing strategies.

It will also task Austrade to develop a manufacturing, export and investment strategy and make battery metals a funding priority for the Australian Research Council (ARC).

Australia is the world’s biggest lithium supplier, but most of the production is exported. The Labor Party wants more local manufacturing and refinement of battery metals to take place domestically.

“There’s no reason why Australian manufacturing workers can’t refine more of our battery metals and also make batteries here,” a joint statement from shadow ministers Kim Carr, Jason Clarke and Madeleine King said.

“We can be a country that makes more things.”

An Association of Mining and Exploring Companies (AMEC) report, released last January, estimates that lithium will remain the key material for battery production until at least 2030, with global lithium value set to grow from $160 billion in 2018 to $2 trillion in 2025.

Lithium, as well as other battery metals such as nickel and vanadium, are becoming increasingly desirable as components for electric vehicles, phone batteries and other renewables.

In Australia, some of the most well-known lithium sites operating or in development include Tianqi’s Kwinana processing plant, Talison’s Greenbushes mine and Altura’s Pilgangoora lithium project, which officially opened last month.

All three are in Western Australia, but there are also promising projects in other states, including Northern Cobalt’s Arunta project and Core Exploration’s Finniss project in the Northern Territory.

Last week, the Australian Government’s Chief Economist Mark Cully said Australia needed to make “key decisions” in the coming months regarding the local lithium sector.

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