Albermarle has announced the construction of two processing trains at its lithium hydroxide refinery in Western Australia.
Adding to the two current trains at the plant, the expansion will double the refinery’s productive capacity to 100,000 tonnes. The $1.5bn investment would make Albermarle Australia’s biggest lithium producer outright.
This is following the initial expansion Albermarle completed in 2022, growing the mine to 50,000 tonnes.
Kent Masters, Albermarle CEO, stated: “Australia is essential to the global supply chain for energy storage and an important part of our diverse portfolio. 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.”
The plant processes lithium from Albermarle’s Greenbushes mine. Greenbushes is one of the world’s most productive lithium mines and produces 1.95 million tonnes per year.
Global lithium drive
Amongst the world’s largest lithium producers, Albermarle is expanding operations in the midst of a global drive to provide the metal, an essential component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries. The International Energy Agency has predicted that altogether, lithium supplies would need to rise by a third to match demand.
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The report states: “demand for lithium, the commodity with the largest projected demand-supply gap, is projected to increase sixfold to 500 kilotonnes by 2030 in the APS, requiring the equivalent of 50 new average-sized mines.”
Albermarle itself is scaling up its lithium operations globally. In March this year it announced $1.3bn of investment into a lithium “mega-flex” facility in the US. The facility will be able to extract lithium from a number of different sources, including recycled batteries. Albermarle expect the facility to have an initial output of 50,000 tonnes with the potential to double that via expansion.
Given Chile’s nationalisation of its reserves, Western Australia in particular is becoming a popular location for firms to extract lithium. India’s national mining company, NMDC, has been investigating lithium in the area and is negotiating with Hancock to explore further.