United States-headquartered Albemarle has unveiled expansion plans for its lithium hydroxide processing plant at Kemerton in the southwest of Western Australia, confirming it will build two new processing trains that will boost production capacity at the facility to 100,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium a year.
Albemarle said it will build two additional processing trains at its Kemerton plant to process spodumene ore concentrate from the Greenbushes mine in the WA’s southwest where it has a 49% stake alongside Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a joint venture between Australian miner IGO and China’s Tianqi Lithium.
When combined with recently completed trains one and two, the additional processing trains would increase the facility’s output by 50,000 tonnes a year, taking production capacity at the plant to 100,000 tonnes of battery grade lithium hydroxide per annum.
Albemarle said once completed, the expansion will make the plant the biggest lithium hydroxide processing facility outside of China with the plant capable of delivering enough battery-grade lithium to produce batteries for an estimated 2.4 million electric vehicles (EVs) each year.
It is estimated the capital expenditure for trains three and four will be more than $1.5 billion, building on the capital expenditure for trains one and two, which was also more than $1.5 billion.
Albemarle Chief Executive Officer Kent Masters said the decision to expand was driven by confidence in future demand with the high-value lithium products produced at the plant in demand from some of the world’s top manufacturers of electric vehicles (EVs), and electronic and energy storage products.
Masters said the worldwide push to reduce carbon emissions and the boom in lithium storage and EV manufacturing has boosted demand for high-quality lithium and refined products from safe and reliable free-trade status sources like Australia.
“Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage and an important part of our diverse portfolio,” he said.
“Our decision to expand was driven by our confidence in future demand and allows us to offer customers additional supply from Greenbushes, well known as one of the world’s best lithium mines.”
Construction is expected to begin immediately, with the first product from the expansion expected in 2026.
Albemarle’s Country Manager Australia, Beverley East, said the expansion decision confirmed Australia’s critical role in the global lithium supply chain and would be a boon for local jobs and businesses, and the broader state and national economies for years to come.
The announcement comes as Albemarle continues its pursuit of Perth-based miner Liontown Resources in the hopes of snaring its Kathleen Valley spodumene mine in WA’s Goldfields region.
Liontown earlier this year rejected a $5.5 billion buyout offer from Albermarle, valued at $2.50 per share. It is understood Liontown is seeking $3 a share.
The Kathleen Valley project, being developed near Leinster, about 680 kilometres north-east of Perth, is expected to initially produce about 500,000 tonnes of spodumene concentrate per annum, but Liontown hopes to expand production to 700,000 tonnes by 2029.
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