WA capitalising on lithium-ion battery demand

Photo: Northern Minerals’ Browns Range Heavy Rare Earth Project

Western Australia’s strategy to capitalise on its substantial reserves of minerals used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries has contributed to the state’s recent economic growth, according to an industry report released by Minister for Mines and Petroleum, Bill Johnston.

“The (Future Battery Industry Strategy) strategy provides consistent and co-ordinated actions to ensure the WA Government is leading the nation’s growth in the uptake of opportunities across the whole global battery value chain, including mining, downstream processing and manufacturing,” Johnston said.

“While the industry has recently faced challenges, the changing nature of technology and the decisions made by international car manufacturers indicate the long-term importance of the industry.”

WA’s battery minerals contributed $6 billion in export revenue in 2018-19, and a 21 per cent increase in employment. At December 2019, the state committed almost $3 billion towards battery industry projects across the state and a further $22 billion in proposed regional projects.

The rapid uptake of electric vehicles and battery-based energy storage systems around the world is driving global demand for lithium-ion batteries. Electric vehicle and battery manufacturers are securing sources of minerals, materials and components to meet this increase in demand.

Western Australia has substantial reserves of all the battery minerals used in the manufacture of rechargeable batteries, including: large quantities of lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and alumina.

The state is the global leader in lithium production and is also home to the fourth largest vanadium and manganese resources, the second largest reserves of cobalt and the largest nickel resources.

It also produces non-battery minerals used in the manufacture of electric vehicles and energy storage systems, including rare earth elements that are necessary for the production of electric motors.

As part of the strategy, the state is looking at facilitating the development of new activities, such as the assembly of battery-based energy storage system, the design of grid management software, the recycling of waste at all stages of the battery value chains and the manufacturing of niche battery products.

It also commits to working with research organisations, industry and federal government to build the research capacity to influence battery technologies globally and ensure Western Australia’s minerals and expertise remains relevant.