Through the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia, the Western Australian government has invested $900,000 in the Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre (FBICRC) Cathode Precursor Production pilot plant project, led by Curtin University.
The pilot aims to boost Australia’s capability to produce cost-effective, high-quality nickel, cobalt and manganese for producing precursor cathode active materials (PCAM).
PCAM is a form of advanced chemical manufacturing and is a key material used in lithium-ion batteries to power electric vehicles.
“Western Australia already exports all the minerals needed to make a battery, but now we have the exciting opportunity to move into the next step of manufacturing these materials,” WA Mines and Petroleum minister Bill Johnston said.
“The pilot boosts the McGowan government’s efforts to attract global investment in PCAM manufacturing in Western Australia.”
Commissioning of the Cathode Precursor Production plant is expected to begin in early 2022, followed by an 18-month trial.
The FBICRC and its partners will invest $18.4 million to develop the pilot production plant. The Western Australian government has also contributed in building the industry overall.
“Through the WA Recovery Plan, we have committed $13.2 million to facilitate global investment in precursor cathode manufacturing in Western Australia,” Johnston said.
“Diversifying our economy and increasing our activity in mineral processing and advanced manufacturing are key objectives of the McGowan government’s Future Battery Industry Strategy.”
Western Australia’s downstream battery minerals processing capabilities are continuing to grow, with BHP Nickel West opening Australia’s first nickel sulphate plant at the company’s Kwinana refinery earlier this month.
Combined with the lithium hydroxide plants under construction in Western Australia, this project demonstrates the state’s ability to attract investment and continue moving along the battery value chain.