Utilising Lithium as a Strategic Material in Australia
Currently in Australia, lithium contributes very little to its country of origin. The mining industry digs up deposits of spodumene (lithium rock), only primarily process the material and then export it to China to be made into lithium hydroxide and lithium carbonate. Then, the renewables industry buy it back as fully processed Chinese lithium cells. Australia needs to develop a more strategic plan when it comes to handling lithium material, and it's all about securing supply chains.
Lithium is one of the much-loved battery metals that is expected to see big growth due to the electric vehicle (EV) boom. Demand is high, but Australia is not fully capitalising on the lithium value chain. Going forward, Australia must move downstream into processing and develop local manufacturing if we are to benefit from large-scale Australian-made battery energy storage.
Currently the Australian mining industry focuses mainly on primary processing but the key to growing the local lithium industry is secondary processing. Western Australia already does some refining — but it’s only small scale. China, on the other hand, accounts for the bulk of global refining, they are well set up with an integrated value chain and capture most of the value of lithium.
Bardan Cells Founder and Director, Cameron Edwards says governments and industry must work together because the window of opportunity for Australia to step up and take a greater share of the lithium market is closing. Mr. Edwards wants the federal government to help facilitate further investment in the lithium supply chain here in Western Australia and of course right across the country.
Perth based lithium manufacturing company, Bardan Cells, are set to be pioneers in the local lithium industry with their design modules (and packs) due to be ready for market as early as 2023. With their microfactory currently underway these cells will be available to local integrators for battery energy storage. They also have plans to create a buying and selling hub in WA to help overseas companies source Australian materials.
In terms of government action, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources have released the 2022 Critical Minerals Strategy which aims to grow our critical minerals sector, expand downstream processing, and help meet future global demand.
This strategy sets out a long-term plan to leverage growing global demand and develop a thriving and durable Australian critical minerals sector – one that contributes to the national security and economic prosperity of Australia and the Indo-Pacific region.
Due to uncertain times during the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian businesses are increasingly seeking access to reliable, secure, and resilient supplies of the critical minerals they need. With global demand for critical minerals increasing and global supply uncertain, the need for robust supply chains must be achieved. Australia’s large critical minerals reserves, technical expertise and track record as a reliable and responsible supplier mean the sector can respond to market demand.
This strategy complements other major government initiatives, including:
Global Resources Strategy – which looks to diversify markets and facilitate new trade opportunities for traditional and emerging commodities
Modern Manufacturing Strategy – critical minerals processing is one of the National Manufacturing Priorities under this $1.5 billion strategy
Technology Investment Roadmap – several low emissions technologies in the roadmap rely on critical minerals.