Western Australia’s plan to capitalise on ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ battery boom

The Bald Hill lithium mine. Image: Tawana Resources.

The Western Australian Government has launched a taskforce that will develop a plan for the state to capitalise on its potential to produce and process lithium and other crucial battery metals.

Western Australia, home of the massive Greenbushes lithium operation, already mines more than 60 per cent of the world’s supply of lithium.

Production of the metal is on track to grow even further in Western Australia with an expansion proposed at Greenbushes and new mines in the Pilbara and Goldfields regions set to add output.

The state government wants to use the potential to consolidate this world-leading position and create long-term job opportunities for Western Australians.

According to the McGowan Government, the taskforce will oversee development of a Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy to build on the state’s competitive advantages.

It will aim to develop a leading energy materials industry that maximises benefits to the state and delivers jobs.

The taskforce will be chaired by Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston and consist of senior government representatives. It is expected the taskforce will present recommendations to the state government within six months.

Johnston noted Western Australia’s potential to be a source of the materials required for lithium-ion batteries.

“Western Australia possesses all the elements required to produce these batteries such as lithium, nickel, graphite and cobalt, meaning we are in the box seat to capitalise on the growth of this industry,” Johnston said.

“This isn’t just about extracting resources from the ground. It’s also about processing them here in WA to create jobs for Western Australians.”

The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC), which has estimated that the lithium value chain could grow to be worth $2 trillion, welcomed the leadership of the government to setup the taskforce.

AMEC chief executive officer Warren Pearce said the strategy was needed to attract international companies that hold the technology to undertake further battery mineral precursor development.

“The state government has stepped up to clearly signal that WA is open for business and determined to play a much larger role in the lithium and battery minerals value chain,” Pearce said.

“A ministerial taskforce will provide co-ordination for the multiple government departments that will be critical in planning and approvals. They will have a key role in ensuring there are no regulatory hurdles that slow the development of this new industry.”

An AMEC report on the lithium opportunity, released in January, outlined that the global lithium value chain would grow from $165 billion in 2017 to more than $2 trillion by 2025.

WA Premier Mark McGowan said the availability of lithium and other energy materials created a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the state.

“The taskforce will do the work, in consultation with industry, to ensure our state is front and centre in production of battery technologies, and will also work to make sure these materials can be processed here in WA to maximise local jobs,” McGowan said.