Lithium-focused companies and investors will flock to the Parmelia Hilton in Perth this week for the inaugural Lithium Mine to Market conference starting Thursday February 21.
The conference offers an insight into the lithium supply chain, bringing together a roster of expert speakers to discuss supply and market outlooks within the sector.
Western Australia is the world’s leading producer of lithium, producing 44% of world supply in 2017 from its seven operating lithium mines.
The sector has recently begun to focus on lithium chemical production as an added-value step in the supply chains beginning from Western Australian lithium mines.
The WA state government has supported the initiative, expressing its desire to have value-added downstream processing occur in a proposed processing hub in Kwinana’s industrial area.
Supporting a battery metals industry in WA
A report released by AMEC last year noted WA’s advantageous position in the lithium chain and that it produces all other minerals necessary to domestically manufacture batteries.
The report, titled ‘The Path Forward: Supporting the development of a lithium and battery metals industry in Western Australia’, points out that the current $165-billion global lithium value chain will grow to a conservatively estimated $2 trillion by 2025.
Australia stands to capture $10 billion of this without government and industry collaboration, however, a concerted effort to add one step of electro-chemical processing to the value chain would give Australia a further share of $297 billion.
AMEC’s research showed that 89% of global electro-chemical processing occurs in China but that Australia could compete on both cost and quality of products.
Recent sector developments
Since 2017, investment in lithium mining and downstream processing in WA has seen projects worth $4 billion completed, under construction or planned.
This includes the Tianqi lithium plant nearing completion in Kwinana’s industrial area, which will be the largest lithium hydroxide plant in the world.
Along with new producers, several WA companies are also expanding their production.
Other expansion projects include Mineral Resources Limited’s (ASX:MIN) spodumene concentrate expansion to 750,000 tonnes and Kidman Resources Ltd’s (ASX:KDR) Mt Holland joint venture which has increased production to 315,000 tonnes spodumene concentrate and 45,000 tonnes lithium hydroxide.
Lithium Mine to Market 2019 will begin with a welcome address from the Hon Bill Johnston MLA, the Western Australian Minister for Mines, Petroleum, Energy & Industrial Relations.
Opening the keynote session shortly afterwards is Mark Cully, chief economist of the Australian Government, who will give a presentation titled ‘Electric Dreams: The Outlook for the Australian Lithium Industry’.
Other speakers from the first day’s keynote session include: Tianqui Lithium general manager Phil Thick; Roskill division manager Oliver Heathman; and Clean Energy Finance Corporation infrastructure lead and director of corporate finance Julia Hinwood.
The remaining two sessions on the first day offer a wide range of talks from different industry participants.
Session two before lunch will focus on WA’s lithium value chain initiatives, with talks from the Western Australian government chief scientist Professor Peter Klinken and Regional Development Agency chief executive officer Colleen Yates.
Infranomics founder and director Cameron Edwards will also discuss infrastructure requirements for the lithium value chain.
Remaining speakers from the third session include AMEC chief executive officer Warren Pearce and London Metals Exchange business development analyst Antonio Masiero.
Hydrometallurgical circuit based on Lithium Australia's proprietary SiLeach process
The second day will begin with technical talks on lithium processing and technology from Hatch Associates process engineer for metals Duncan Faulkner and Sichuan Calciner Technology chairman Dr Jie Chang.
MSP principal consultant engineer Jon Starink will also speak on the risks and benefits of fast-track project execution.
The middle session on Friday will look at cathode manufacturing, battery assembly and recycling initiatives with talks from Lithium Australia Ltd (ASX:LIT) managing director Adrian Griffin and Neometals Ltd (ASX:NML) chief operating officer Mike Tamlin.
They will speak on the market outlook for cathode production in WA and the complexities of lithium processing developments, respectively.
Closing the second last session is CSIRO energy storage team leader Anand Bhatt, who will address the conference on the current status and developing new industry around lithium battery recycling in Australia.
The conference will close with a sixth session revolving around the Australian lithium industry and its international context
Roskill director Thomas Hohne-Sparborth will present a case study on the socio-economic impact of the lithium value chain before the conference is closed by Wisdom Intelligence & Technology (Nanjing) managing director Eileen Hao, who will speak on the Chinese market for lithium-ion battery materials.
The Lithium Mine to Market Australia 2019 conference will take place on February 21-22 in Perth.
To see a program, please visit https://roskill.com/event/lithium-mine-to-market-australia-2019/#programme