Chinese firm Tianqi Lithium’s board has reportedly given the go ahead for an additional A$516m ($382m) investment for a Greenbushes mine expansion in Western Australia (WA).
The expansion, together with debottlenecking of the existing lithium concentration plants, is expected to boost lithium concentrate production capacity at the operation to 1.95 million tonnes.
Talison Lithium, a joint venture between Tianqi (51%) and its partner Albemarle (49%), is the operator of the project.
As part of the expansion, Talison will construct a new concentrator plant, a crushing plant and associated infrastructure.
Set to be commissioned in the last quarter of 2020, the concentrator plant will be designed to have a capacity of producing 520,000t a year.
Talison Lithium CEO Lorry Mignacca was quoted by media sources as saying: “Greenbushes is a truly world-class mining operation with the capacity for significant expansion to underpin the lithium supply needs of our shareholders, Tianqi Lithium and Albemarle.
“In addition to the major investment by Talison in Greenbushes, the expanded lithium concentrate production at Greenbushes will underpin the development of world-class lithium hydroxide production plants in Western Australia, driven by Tianqi and Albemarle, underpinning a new value-adding and jobs-creating industry in this state.”
The project is anticipated to generate more than 300 new jobs during peak construction phase, as well as up to around 250 additional permanent jobs once the proposed lithium concentrate plant becomes fully operational, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
The latest investment is in addition to the ongoing A$320m ($237.46m) upgrade at the site.
Meanwhile, Global Advanced Metals (GAM), which holds the rights to tantalum and other minerals produced at Greenbushes, is worried about the potential impact of the expansion to its rights position.
The company approached the WA Supreme Court to issue an injunction to safeguard its rights under a mining agreement with Talison.
GAM CEO Andrew O’Donovan said: “Contractually, the expansion of Talison’s lithium production cannot be at the expense of GAM’s rights to its tantalum and all other minerals at Greenbushes.”