Australia’s Wesfarmers and its joint venture (JV) partner have started construction on the Holland lithium project in Western Australia (WA), after securing all critical approvals.

The move follows the issuance of a Ministerial Statement under WA’s Environmental Protection Act.

The statement outlines conditions for the construction and project of the proposed lithium hydroxide refinery, as part of the Mt Holland project.

Covalent Lithium, a 50:50 JV of Wesfarmers and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile (SQM), is responsible for the development of the project.

In a press statement, Wesfarmers said: “The Mt Holland lithium project has now received all critical approvals and construction and project development have commenced.”

In February 2021, the JV announced the final investment decision (FID) on the Mt Holland project, which involves the development of an open-pit lithium mine and a processing plant at Mt Holland, along with a refinery at Kwinana, WA.

The FID followed a decision to defer the project’s development to allow for additional actions to be taken for improving its long-term value.

An updated definitive feasibility study (UDFS) was later completed by Covalent Lithium, highlighting greater certainty about the engineering design, as well as capital and operating costs of the project.

The study also provided increased scope for the production capacity of the concentrator and refinery from 45,000tpa to nearly 50,000tpa of battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

The Mt Holland lithium project is planned to commence production of lithium hydroxide in the second half of 2024.

Wesfarmers’ share of investment in the project development is estimated at $700m (A$950m).