Just out of sight of the South Western Highway, in State forest between the tourism hotspots of Bridgetown and Balingup, one of WA’s oldest mining centres and its sleepy host town are at the heart of a global energy revolution.
More than a century after the area was first worked by tin miners, the Greenbushes mine and the town of the same name on its doorstep have emerged front and centre of the State’s multibillion-dollar development boom around lithium.
The metal and its chemical compounds have long been used in aluminium smelting, lubricants, pharmaceuticals, glassware and ceramics. Its light weight and energy density means it is also found in the batteries powering laptop computers, mobile phones, calculators and digital cameras.
The emergence of electric vehicles, however, has set the lithium market alight. With electric cars, scooters and trucks tipped to account for up to half of all manufactured vehicles by 2030, demand for lithium is on the rise as car makers and their suppliers plan for the rechargeable batteries that will power the new fleets.
UK-based minerals research house Roskill sees global consumption of lithium growing at 18 per cent a year up to 2026, driven by annual 26 per cent growth in the rechargeable battery market.