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Greenbushes Lithium Operation key to State Government’s plans to grow WA’s future battery industry

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Premier Mark McGowan attends Greenbushes Lithium Mine.
Camera IconPremier Mark McGowan attends Greenbushes Lithium Mine. Credit: Melissa Pedelty/Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

A Greenbushes mine will continue to spearhead Western Australia’s lithium production as the State Government announces its aim to transform WA’s battery industry into a significant source of economic development.

The announcement was made during the State Government’s Community Cabinet in towns across the South West this week.

Construction is underway at Greenbushes Lithium Operation — which delivered a record production of spodumene concentrate in the September 2022 quarter — to expand the existing mine, the State Government’s first step in their plan to grow WA’s future battery industry and turn WA into a leading exporter of future battery minerals, materials, technologies, and expertise.

WA is the largest lithium supplier in the world, accounting for 52 percent of global supply in 2021, and 100 percent of Australia’s lithium production in 2021.

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Greenbushes alone contributed 50 percent of the 267,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalents mined in Australia in 2021, and its output accounts for approximately 22 per cent of the global lithium market.

The expansion will increase Greenbushes mine’s production capacity by approximately a further 50 percent, and will help increase the State’s participation in global battery and critical mineral supply chains, and job-creating manufacturing opportunities.

The expansion is estimated to support an additional 680 permanent mine jobs and more than 450 construction jobs over the next five years, in addition to more than 190 new jobs created in the past year which brought the local operations workforce to above 900.

Greenbushes will supply lithium concentrate to newly built Kwinana and Kemerton processing plants which have the capacity to produce around 25,000 and 50,000 tonnes respectively of lithium hydroxide a year.

Premier Mark McGowan said based on the growing production and demand, Greenbushes was home to the highest grade lithium in the world, and reinforced WA’s strength and ability to supply the world with the critical minerals it needs to transition to net zero.

“Demand for green energy technologies like EVs is driving exploration and investment in WA - which has been a key focus for my Government and is why I advocated for Albemarle to establish operations in WA,” Mr McGowan said.

“When you think about it, lithium as an industry in Western Australia barely existed in a few years ago and now we have major mines, major processing facilities, to the tune of billions of dollars which produces hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties and thousands of jobs for Western Australians.”

State Development and Jobs Minister Roger Cook said WA had become the “powerhouse” of the nation’s battery and critical minerals sector, with global demand for these minerals growing as the world continued to decarbonise.

“Through operations like Greenbushes, WA is in prime position to meet this demand,” Mr Cook said.

“The State accounts for half of global lithium production and is a major exporter of nickel, cobalt, manganese, and rare earths.”

Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the State Government was committed to capitalising on WA’s natural competitive advantages.

“In less than a decade, WA has established a multi-billion dollar processing industry, including global-scale investments in battery-grade lithium hydroxide and nickel sulphate, as well as rare earth processing facilities,” Mr Johnston said.

“Guided by our Future Battery and Critical Minerals Industries Strategy, we’re committed to creating manufacturing jobs and supporting new skills.”

Warren-Blackwood MLA Jane Kelsbie said she was pleased the Premier and Ministers were able to meet the Greenbushes operations team, which contributed significantly to WA’s economy.

“Being able to host Community Cabinet across the Warren-Blackwood electorate gives the State Cabinet Ministers an opportunity to meet our local communities and hear from them directly,” Ms Kelsbie said.

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