Consider environment in lithium boom


The Greens (WA) have welcomed the establishment of a taskforce to investigate how WA can benefit from the lithium boom.

Lithium and other commodities found in WA such as nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite and copper are key ingredients in the lithium-ion batteries that drive electric cars, and in electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers.

The demand for lithium is also tipped to escalate following the UK’s recent announcement that it would ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, after a similar move by France.

The taskforce, consisting of senior government representatives, would engage with companies operating in the sector and take advice from an industry reference group, and will make recommendations to the State Government within six months on how WA could best capture the opportunity.

Greens (WA) spokesperson for jobs and trade, Diane Evers, said several companies have already announced plans to process lithium and other minerals into higher-value battery precursor materials such as lithium hydroxide, lithium carbonate and nickel sulphate.

“The South West should see increased mining activity as many of the minerals needed for the technology sector are found in the region,” she said.

“And the mining activity would bring families and associated businesses to the region.

“Value-adding to our mineral resources benefits Western Australians and can make use of extensive renewable energy potential.

“These industries could create thousands of highly skilled, high-paying jobs.”

The establishment of the taskforce coincides with the release of a preliminary report by Regional Development Australia, which makes a case for WA becoming a Lithium Valley for new energy, similar to the way Silicon Valley in the US is known as the global hub of the tech sector.

It also follows a report by the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies last week, which called on governments to take lead roles in securing WA’s stake in the new energy revolution.

Ms Evers said it was exciting to see more than 15 lithium developments planned or under construction across the state, representing about $4.7 billion in future investment, with more on the way.

“It should be understood, however, that lithium mining, like all similar industries, must maintain appropriate recognition for environmental and social concerns,” she said.


  • Chengdu Tianqi Lithium: $400 million lithium hydroxide plant and a possible $317 million expansion at Greenbushes, with 500 construction jobs. Phase one to finish late 2018 and the expansion would finish late 2019
  • WA Lithium: a joint venture between Kidman Resources and Chilean-based producer SQM, it has struck a deal to supply Tesla with lithium hydroxide from a refinery to be built in Kwinana. Set to build a lithium refinery in Kwinana, potentially creating 400 WA jobs.
  • US company Albemarle (joint venture partner of Tianqi) is considering setting up a lithium plant in Kemerton.
  • Pilbara Minerals: developing the world-class Pilgangoora lithium-tantalum project in Port Hedland, widely regarded as the world’s leading lithium development project.  A workforce of about 400 will be on site at Pilgangoora at peak construction, with 120 jobs created in its operational stage.