Australia is poised to grab a fifth of the world’s lithium hydroxide refining capacity within five years as demand grows for battery metals that bypass China, Canberra said in a report.
China produces more than 80% of the world’s lithium hydroxide, a processed form of the in-demand metal, according to the International Energy Agency. However, several companies are building refineries in Australia that would turn locally-mined lithium ore into battery-grade chemicals.
If these plans progress on time Australia could have 10% of the refining market by 2024 from a negligible amount currently, and 20% by 2027, the government said in a report released Tuesday. But delays and technical issues could derail the timeline, it warned.
Chinese company Tianqi Lithium Corp. has already opened a refinery near Perth in Western Australia, in a joint venture with Australia’s IGO Ltd. US group Albemarle Corp. is close to opening a plant nearby in a joint venture with Mineral Resources Ltd. Both projects have been beset with technical problems and cost blowouts, however.
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