Global Advanced Metals (GAM) is planning to launch direct tantalum mining operations at the Greenbushes Mine assets in Western Australia (WA) in the next one year.

Operated by Talison Lithium, Greenbushes is claimed as the world’s largest lithium mine and has been a source of the world’s tantalum supply for several decades.

At Greenbushes, Talison Lithium holds only the lithium rights, while all other mineral rights are reserved to GAM under an agreement between the two firms.

Currently, GAM exercises its right to receive tantalum extracted by Talison during its lithium-bearing spodumene mining at the site.

However, GAM has submitted a mine development plan to Talison Lithium outlining how it hopes to launch its own tantalum mining at Greenbushes in the coming year.

GAM CEO Andrew O’Donovan said: “Greenbushes is central to our Australian tantalum development strategy as we restore Western Australia’s position as a major supply hub in the global tantalum market.

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“As an integrated processor and supplier of tantalum products to the electronics, aerospace, medical and other industries, a long-term and reliable primary source of tantalum supply is key to providing stability assurance to our direct customers and further downstream end-users.”

“GAM was acutely aware of the need to carefully manage concurrent lithium and tantalum operations in the same mining area.”

Furthermore, GAM plans to redevelop its Greenbushes assets by combining the planned tantalum mining operations with further processing of tantalum derived as a by-product of lithium mining in WA, creating one of the world’s largest single sources of the mineral to supply the company’s US and Japanese manufacturing facilities.

O’Donovan further noted: “GAM was acutely aware of the need to carefully manage concurrent lithium and tantalum operations in the same mining area.

“The separation of exploration rights for different minerals has become commonplace in Western Australia to facilitate mining development and we expect concurrent mining of separate interests at Greenbushes to become a showpiece of how this co-mining can be managed.

“A large part of our focus in the development of the Greenbushes tantalum mine plan is ensuring employee and environmental safety, while maximising tantalum production and the royalty revenue and jobs it will create for Western Australia.”

Talison Lithium is 51% owned by China’s Tianqi Lithium Industries, with US-based Albemarle holding 49% and currently undertaking mining operations for its own lithium and GAM’s tantalum.

It is reported that around 40% of tantalum is used in the manufacture of tantalum capacitors, small battery-like components found in many high-volume electronic devices, as well as in the powertrain or safety management control devices of automobiles.