Coronavirus pandemic a further blow to WA’s multi-million-dollar lithium industry – by Jacqueline Lynch (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – May 20, 2020)

A few years ago there were high hopes that demand for West Australian lithium would skyrocket, but the industry has been plagued with a slow uptake of electric vehicles, falling lithium prices and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

The valuable metal, found in abundance across regional WA, is largely used in the production of electric vehicles and energy storage systems. In an effort to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic, United States lithium giant, Albemarle, has slowed down progress on what was set to be the state’s largest lithium refinery, near Bunbury.

The vice president of the company’s lithium division, David Klanecky, said while no jobs would be lost the move would delay the plant’s completion by several months.

“We will continue to build, we will continue to construct and actually develop the site but we’re not adding additional resources to really accelerate the project,” he said.

This year, the company’s quarterly lithium sales dropped 19 per cent from last year, to the tune of about $55 million, which Mr Klanecky said was largely due to battery and electric vehicle production stalling in places like China, Europe and the US during COVID-19.

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