Lithium, News, Project approval

SQM, Wesfarmers debut $2.6b ’bowl of lithium‘

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The new Mount Holland lithium mine is project is expected to produce enough lithium across its life to power one million electric vehicles (EVs).

Chilean miner SQM opened the Mount Holland lithium mine and concentrator through its joint venture, Covalent Lithium, owned in a 50–50 partnership with Wesfarmers.

SQM chief executive Ricardo Ramos said Australia was “the next bowl of lithium production” at the opening on Thursday.

“We want to invest more, we think it’s a great project, I would love to have 10 different Mount Hollands in Australia, one is not enough,” he said.

“We have a very good team in Australia looking for high-quality projects, and we think we will find opportunities in the future, and we will wait until we have those opportunities.”

“Australia is a great place to produce lithium, low cost, and we’re going to have really good competition in terms of cost, safety and environmental, community relations. That’s why we’re expecting very aggressive investment.”

The project features an open-cut mine and concentrator, as well as a refinery currently being constructed in Kwinana on track for production by the end of 2024.

Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said the lithium joint venture was one of Wesfarmers’ key growth platforms that would deliver long-term value.

“When we made our initial investment into Mount Holland four years ago, we saw an opportunity to enter the lithium market and leverage our expertise in chemical processing here in Western Australia,” he said.

“It’s pleasing to see the successful commissioning and ongoing ramp-up of spodumene production.”

SQM has been busy in the Australian lithium sector, most recently launching a major joint lithium play with Hancock Prospecting for a $1.63 billion takeover of Azure Minerals.

Azure Minerals shareholders are set to vote on the takeover bid in early April.

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