Big on batteries: government finally seizes on lithium-ion potential

The government needs to seize a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to put Australia like a world leader from the rapidly developing lithium-ion battery manufacturing sector.

Releasing the latest strategy document from Austrade , costs minister, Simon Birmingham, said the time was instantly to capitalise on growing global demand.

“Australia includes a once-in-a-generation chance to transform in to a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub for lithium-ion batteries,” Birmingham said within a statement.

Until the federal has been criticised due to the absence of engagement using the lithium sector, notably via the governor of Wa, Kim Beazley, along with the WA chief scientist, Peter Klinken.

Western Australia may be the world’s largest producer of lithium, much sought after for its superb electrode potential and employed in batteries for smartphones along with portable electronic products. The electrical car industry is likely become its biggest driver.

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The September Resources and also Quarterly by way of the chief economist, Mark Cully, says global lithium usage is most likely to grow from about 211,000 tonnes in 2017, merely under half taken into account by electric cars, one,265,000 tonnes by 2027, with almost 90% for planet.

Australian exports of spodumene ore (the raw material for lithium) rose from $117m in 2012 to $780m in 2017. Australia also produces many of the other mineral elements associated with lithium-ion battery manufacture C including copper, nickel, cobalt, manganese, iron, phosphate, titanium and aluminium C and has admission to commercial reserves of the remaining element, graphite, as well as most of the chemicals required.

But a recent report by Future Smart Tactics for Perth’s Regional Development Australia remarked that Australia currently captures just 0.5% of lithium’s ultimate value as simply processed export ores, while 99.5% will be paid to Australia’s trading partners for value adding through electrochemical processing, battery cell production and product assembly.

The report essential a concentrated lithium processing and manufacturing hub or “Lithium Valley” at Kwinana, south of Perth..

The Austrade report suggested several possible sites for lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing, including Kwinana, Kalgoorlie and Bunbury in WA, as well as Adelaide, Townsville, Newcastle and Geelong.

The resources minister, Matt Canavan, said inside a statement the time had come for Australia to have benefit from the booming industry.

“With the proper policies we will advance our industry further inside the value chain to become the earth’s leading supplier of high-grade lithium components, including ion batteries C creating new jobs and opportunities for Australians.”

Canavan previously highlighted Australia’s stringent environmental standards as an obstacle to your growth of an entirely fledged battery manufacturing industry.

“We’re unsure we will go on it through to batteries because regulations around chemical use mean nobody is will be capable to tackle Asian processing facilities,” Canavan told Guardian Australia.

“We will never weaken our environmental standards to attract manufacturing jobs. We have an excellent environmental regulatory system, which we’re satisfied with as well as keep, but other countries lack our amount of robustness knowning that does sometimes stick them ahead in relation to investment traction with industry.”

Piers Verstegen, the director with the WA Conservation Council in addition to a vice-president in the Australian Conservation Foundation, said he was optimistic of a low-impact battery manufacturing industry. “We have a big opportunity here to be a market leader of lithium that’s produced and processed using alternative energy.”

He said environmental impacts just like land-clearing for mining, energy-intensive processing and waste items will need to be carefully managed.

The chief executive of the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, Warren Pearce, agreed the industry is at a crucial phase, but said the Lithium Valley concept had been a barrier for state and federal governments, who are unwilling to subsidise key components perhaps a new port.

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Western Australia has five second-stage processing sites planned or under construction, including Kidman SQM, which isexpected to get started operations at Kwinana in 2021 and has been contracted to give the electrical car manufacturer Tesla.

“The market is still chaotic and therefore logistics hasn’t set, so we will need to be capable to secure our devote it in the next two-year window, so you don’t be locked out, which explains why partners in research and development are so important,” Pearce said.

He cited the Kidman SQM contend with Tesla as an example of manufacturers building their supply chains, and said others would follow.

Pearce has urged the us government to offer you incentives for international companies holding patents on lithium chemical processing techniques (producing as well as more vital lithium hydroxide) to partner with smaller Australian mining companies.

Amec is lobbying the federal government to exempt lithium mining from a proposed cap on research and development incentives, which could limit refunds open to loss-making businesses with turnover below $20m to $4m yearly.

“It’s a terrible decision that will employ a detrimental effect on our ability to build a significant battery minerals processing industry australia wide,” Pearce said.

Western Australia’s Labor government said it was also lobbying the us govenment to your exemption.? Canavan said he was mindful of industry’s concerns. Nys government is moving ahead regardless. In May it announced a zealous lithium taskforce plus October it pledged $6m to secure the longer term Battery Industries cooperative research centre.


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