Labour shortages cause Kemerton concerns

Greenbushes

Albemarle has further delayed the completion of the second stage of its Kemerton lithium processing plant (Kemerton II) near Bunbury in Western Australia 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.

In October, the MARBL lithium joint venture, a 60/40 joint venture between Albemarle and Mineral Resources, decided to restart the Wodgina lithium mine in Western Australia’s Pilbara region, with production planned for the September quarter of 2022.

MARBL was  formed in November 2019 to develop Wodgina and to operate the Kemerton lithium hydroxide conversion assets.

Upon Mineral Resources’ sale of 60 per cent of Wodgina to Albemarle, the mine was placed on care and maintenance as the companies awaited stronger lithium prices to maximise the mine’s value.

Mineral Resources managing director Chris Ellison said he was pleased with how his company had handled Wodgina in partnership with Albemarle.

“It was the correct decision in late 2019 to place Wodgina on care and maintenance though it never dented our confidence in lithium’s long-term positive demand fundamentals,” Ellison said.

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