China’s Tianqi Lithium and United States-based Albemarle will go ahead with a third stage of expansion at the Greenbushes lithium operation in Western Australia’s South West, approving an additional $516 million investment.
Tianqi announced to the Shenzhen Stock Exchange that the joint venture that operates the Greenbushes mine, Talison Lithium, had approved the investment, which aims to increase spodumene concentrate production capacity to 1.8 million tonnes per year by 2021.
The expansion will be self-funded and will start construction in the last quarter of 2020, the company said.
Talison Lithium is midway through its second phase of production expansion at Greenbushes, with its $320 million investment expected to increase the capacity of the mine to around 1.34 million tonnes of lithium concentrate by the second quarter of 2019.
The company worked with WA-based contractor MSP Engineering to determine the feasibility of the third stage of expansion.
Tianqi is also investing more than $700 million on its lithium processing facilities in Kwinana, where it will upgrade spodumene concentrate from the Greenbushes mine to lithium carbonate equivalent, the material required for battery manufacturing.
The company is expanding its Australian operations rapidly in response to growing demand for lithium oxide concentrates, which are used in the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles, battery storage and consumer electronics.