WA flagged as Aus battery destination
Mining News Pro - Western Australia has been tipped as the prime location for a battery cathode active material (CAM) manufacturing destination, according to a new report.

The report, commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, pointed out that Australia currently produced nine of the ten mineral elements needed to produce most lithium-ion battery anodes and cathodes, and had commercial reserves of graphite, the remaining element.

“Accelerating global demand presents Australia with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transition into a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub if an adequate business case can be built.

“Critical components in advanced battery production; precursor, anode, cathode electrolyte, can be manufactured in Australia. Battery manufacturing technology central to downstream lithium processing therefore stands as a critical gap in the Australian supply chain,” the report state.

It stated that a number of mining groups are already advancing from raw battery minerals to the production of purified metal salts and their refinement to battery grade quality within Australia. These products are expected to supply the rapidly expanding global demand for vehicle electrification.

Due to the increasing market demand for nickel/cobalt/manganese (NCM) materials, and the Western Australian endowment and processing capability in lithium, nickel, manganese, cobalt chemicals, it has been chosen as the potential candidate for Australian CAM manufacture, the report said.

“The report demonstrates that Western Australia has the potential to become a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub for battery materials,” said Western Australian Mines, Petroelum and Energy Minister Bill Johnsston.

"This will help diversify the Western Australian economy, create jobs and place Australia at the forefront of the global battery revolution.”

The report found that the Future Batteries Industry Cooperative Research Centre`s (FBICRC) cathode precursor pilot plant can be built at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Resarch Organisation’s Waterford facilities.

The pilot plant will provide critical technical knowledge of how to build an industrial scale plant in Western Australia, and will make use of BHP Nickel Wests’ existing nickel sulphate pilot plant.

FBICRC has already committed A$300 000 for the scoping phase of the pilot plant project to verify the technical and processing capability.

Australia currently exports the main commodities used in the lithium battery production in the form of mineral concentrates and very little of the value incorporated into manufacturing of lithium ion battery materials is retained in Australia.

The production of concentrate yielded a revenue of A$1.13-billion for Australia in 2017, with no revenue obtained from the major value- adding steps, including precursor production expect precursor production to increase to around 17–fold by 2025.