Australia signs land deal for proposed battery equipment factory

The state of Western Australia will allocate land for a proposed battery metal processing plant by IGO Ltd and Wailoo Metals, backed by billionaire Andrew Forrest, as the country processes some of its most important minerals domestically.

Australia, which supplies almost half of the world’s lithium and is a major producer of rare earths, is looking to move up the value chain of the critical mineral to reduce global dependence on China, which dominates the sector.

The proposed plant in Western Australia, the nation’s largest mining state, is the first in Australia to produce nickel-cobalt-manganese cathode active material, which is used to make components for lithium-ion batteries commonly used in electric vehicles.

The State Government announced on Friday that it would allocate 30 hectares of land within the Kwinana-Rockingham Strategic Industrial Area for the plant, which is expected to cost up to $1 billion. The terms of the agreement were not mentioned in the accompanying statement.

According to Matt Dusci, IGO’s acting CEO, the land deal is an “important step” toward better integration in the battery supply chain.

“We believe mid-stream battery chemical processing will make Australia very competitive,” Dusci said in a statement.

The final investment decision for the project is dependent on a feasibility study to be completed by mid-2024 and finding a project partner with experience in battery chemical processing.

According to the IGO report, a global chemical battery manufacturer has expressed “great interest” in the project.

Western Australia, which holds the majority of the country’s important mineral reserves, is at the forefront of efforts to develop processing capacity.

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The proposed site will be near the Kwinana lithium hydroxide plant, owned by IGO and China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp. Co-owned, it last year produced the country’s first battery-grade lithium hydroxide, a key raw material for electric vehicle batteries.

($1 = 1.4741 Australian dollars)

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