MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Battery behemoths Ganfeng Lithium and Albemarle, and carmakers like Tesla have snapped up Australian lithium supply over the past year, with one miner this week saying that nearly all of the country’s planned production has now been spoken for.
Western Australia accounts for around half of global lithium production, which Macquarie expects will jump by 52 percent to 431,000 tonnes of lithium equivalent in 2019, rising to 500,000 tonnes by 2020.
New mines have sprung up in the past 18 months to meet an expected demand boom from makers of rechargeable batteries for everything from mobile phones to electric cars.
Below is a list of Australia’s seven major lithium projects, producers, and announced supply deals.
GREENBUSHES: The world’s largest hard rock lithium mine is a joint venture between China’s Tianqi Lithium and Albemarle. Tianqi holds a 51 percent stake and Albemarle 49 percent in operator Talison.
The project last year okayed an expansion plan boost lithium concentrate production capacity at the mine to 1.95 million tonnes a year, or around 260,000 tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) by 2021.
Supply of lithium concentrate, spodumene goes to the equity holders.
Tianqi is setting up a lithium hydroxide plant which is expected to come on line this year in Kwinana south of Perth.
Albemarle plans to build its own hydroxide plant further south at Bunbury by 2021.
MT CATTLIN: Galaxy Resources produces 200,000 tonnes of lithium concentrate, or spodumene a year. It has sold 100 percent of production for a five year term from 2018, to be settled through Mitsubishi Corp to unspecified customers.
MT HOLLAND: Kidman Resources is developing this top tier asset in a joint venture with Chile’s SQM. It plans to commit around 75-80 percent of its share of production to offtake agreements, leaving a minority portion of future supply uncontracted. Production is seen at around 270,000-350,000 of spodumene.
It has signed offtakes with Tesla, as well as Mitsui & Co. in relation to the supply of lithium hydroxide.
It has agreed with Chile’s SQM to jointly study the potential for a lithium refinery at Kwinana with an initial annual nameplate capacity of 45,400 tonnes of lithium hydroxide to start in 2021.
MOUNT MARION: Jointly owned by Mineral Resources and Ganfeng after minority owner Neometals said it would sell its 13.8 percent equity stake last month. Ganfeng has an offtake agreement for current production.
Neometals retains an option to buy 57,000 tonnes per year of 6 percent spodumene concentrate production from February 2020.
Neometals is seeking partners to build a 10,000 lithium hydroxide plant in Kalgoorlie for commissioning in 2023 as well as a battery recycling plant.
BALD HILL: Alliance Mineral Assets’s flagship project expects to produce 180,000 tonnes of spodumene in 2019 and 240,000 tonnes in 2020. It expects to announce customers for half of its production in the coming weeks. The rest is committed to Chinese chemicals operator Jiangxi Bao Jiang Lithium Industrial Ltd, a joing venture between Hong Kong trading house Burwill and Jiangte Special Electric Motor Co.
WODGINA: Wodgina Lithium is a proposed joint venture between Australia’s Mineral Resources and Albemarle. Albemarle signed an exclusivity agreement in November to acquire a 50 percent interest in the project for $1.15 billion.
Wodgina is expected to supply 750,000 of spodumene, commissioning from the second quarter of this year. Albemarle will market all of the spodumene concentrate.
The JV has said it plans to build a 50,000 tonne per year hydroxide plant with the possibility of increasing this to 100,000 tonnes.
PILGANGOORA: Pilbara Minerals’ Pilgangoora project is around 30 kilometres north of Wodgina. Its capacity of 300,000-350,000 tonnes in 2018 is seen rising to 800,000-850,000 a year by end 2019. All of its stage two production has been placed with South Korea’s Posco, Ganfeng and China’s Great Wall Motor
PILGANGOORA - Altura Mining Ltd’s began spodumene production last year and signed an offtake with Ganfeng with a minimum of 70,000 tonnes per year from 2019 to 2021 in return for an $11 million payment.
Altura also has a 50,000 tonne a year minimum supply contract with Shaanxi J&R Optimum Energy, which is restructuring, from 2019. Ganfeng has an option to buy any additional tonnage.
Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Rashmi Aich
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