Lithium demand is set for a meteoric rise based on international Government Policy driving its use in batteries to stabilise the use of renewable sources of electricity in the grid; and, their commitment to electric vehicles. Meanwhile, electricity and battery producers are turning themselves inside out to keep up with the expected surge in demand.

Australia is currently the world’s largest exporter of lithium, however, is only in third place in reserves held. Argentina has the highest reserves, followed by China, Australia and then Chile. Within Australia, WA dominates this market. WA has several notable projects[2].

Talison Lithium is located at Greenbushes which is 250 km south of Perth, and 90 km south-east of Bunbury Port[3]. It is currently undergoing a $340 million expansion. This is forecast to deliver 200 construction jobs from May 2017 and then 40-60 operational jobs from mid-2019.

Tianqi Lithium is spending $300 million on a lithium hydroxide plant and now has the green light for a $317 million expansion at Kwinana[4], 38km south of Perth[5]. It is forecast to have 500 construction jobs in phase one, that is forecast to finish late 2018, and phase two jobs may be similar to its finish in late 2019.

Altura Resources at Pilgangoora is located 120 km west from Port Hedland. Its $139 million project is moving so fast it is reported as ‘in the early part of construction with hundreds of jobs from March 2018 and operational from early 2019’.

Pilbara Resources also has a project at Pilgangoora with an investment of $234 million they forecast they can produce 2million tonnes per annum (mtpa) with a workforce of about 400 at peak construction with 120 operational jobs to follow[6]. The value of the mine is projected at A$9.23 billion over an estimated 36-year mine life.

In addition, there is Mt Cattlin at Ravensthorpe on Highway 1 between Albany and Esperance[7]. At full capacity, they project 1mtpa. They have commitments to ship the bulk concentrate to China.

Plus, the Mt Marion Lithium project about 40k south west of Kalgoorlie. It is jointly owned with one of China’s largest lithium producers. Annual production is planned at 400,000tonnes per annum[8].

Lithium shipments from Australia have been in an unrefined state leading one group to claim there is $2Tr being left on the table that could be income for Australian miners. The new Kwinana project has the potential to change this and lead to further wealth for WA.

Those being conservative look to population centres over 100,000 people. Miners spending their above-average incomes are more likely to be in the Perth property market as a fly in fly out talent dominates. Evaluating the shipping routes for the exports from Kwinana, Greenbushes, Mt Cattlin and Mt Marion ore may highlight suburbs of interest with stronger potential.

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