The first batch of battery-grade lithium has been produced by Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia (TLEA) from its plant in Kwinana, Western Australia, the first time the material has been produced in Australia in commercial quantities.
TLEA said it was a significant milestone for Australian mining as the sector expands to meet rapidly growing demand for rechargeable batteries, primarily from the electric vehicle and energy storage system industries.
TLEA’s Kwinana plant has successfully met internal certification processes, with the onsite laboratory confirming that battery-grade specification has been met on 10 tonnes of lithium hydroxide, produced consistently over several days. Samples have been sent for independent verification.
The next step in the plant’s ramp-up process is customer qualification, which will be completed over the next four to eight months. During this time, the plant will continue to focus on stable, consistent, and reliable production of battery-grade lithium.
Chief operating officer Raj Surendran said the company was pround to demonstrate that Australia could value add to its minerals onshore, enhancing its reputation as a critical contributor to the production of batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage.
“This is an exciting time for our shareholders, suppliers and service providers who have contributed to the construction and ramp-up of the Kwinana plant, and our employees who have worked so hard to turn the dream of producing battery-grade lithium hydroxide in Australia into a reality,” he said.
TLEA is a joint venture between one of the world’s top producers of lithium chemicals for electric vehicle batteries, Tianqi Lithium Corporation (51 per cent), and Australian miner IGO Limited (49 per cent).
TLEA owns the first lithium hydroxide plant in Australia and the largest in the world to be built and operated outside of China.
“More than 900 jobs were created during the construction phase of the plant, which is now being operated by about 200 people, as well as providing business opportunities for our numerous suppliers, many of whom are locally based,” Surendran said.
Lithium hydroxide produced at the Kwinana plant will be containerised and exported from the Port of Fremantle to customers around the globe.
Surendran said the first train will now continue its ramp up towards its nameplate capacity of 24,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide per annum.
Lithium hydroxide is a lithium-based compound derived from spodumene, a lithium-bearing pegmatite mineral. Spodumene is sourced directly from the Greenbushes mine 250km south-west of Kwinana (Albemarle 50 per cent, Tianqi Corporation 25 per cent, IGO Ltd 25 per cent).