Albemarle’s Kemerton project remains on schedule

By Cameron Perks
Published: Thursday, 31 January 2019

Earthworks at the Kemerton lithium hydroxide project in Western Australia began early in January, and it is on schedule to be producing material in 2021.

North American chemicals producer Albemarle has said that its Kemerton lithium hydroxide conversion plant in Western Australia remains on target to be up and running by 2021.

Albemarle started earthworks at the project on Wednesday January 2, soon after receiving the necessary environmental approvals from both the federal and state governments in Australia.

The conversion plant is intended to have initial capacity for 60,000 tonnes per year of lithium hydroxide but with a planned expansion to 100,000 tpy later.

The commissioning of the Kemerton site is expected to begin in stages over the course of 2021, but no specific date has been set for the beginning of production.

Fastmarkets' most recent price assessment for contract, battery-grade lithium hydroxide, min 56.5% LiOH.H2O, cif China, Japan & South Korea, was $15-17 per kg on December 26.*

"The site earthworks at Kemerton today are on track with our projections," the president of Albemarle’s lithium business unit, Eric Norris, said on January 9.

"Achieving this milestone underscores our commitment to and confidence in developing LiOH operations in Western Australia, and in our overall strategy to drive significant shareholder value and meet our customers’ demands," he added.

The plant will be in the Kemerton Strategic Industrial Area, close to the Greenbushes lithium mine, with the intention of processing the spodumene ore produced at the mine.

Albemarle owns a 49% stake in Talison Lithium, which operates Greenbushes, the world’s largest hard-rock lithium mine. China’s Tianqi Lithium owns the other 51%.

The latest announcement follows a November 2018 agreement with Australian Mineral Resources to develop a 50,000-tpy battery-grade lithium hydroxide plant at the Wodgina lithium mine, also in Western Australia.

And it follows Albemarle’s negotiations with Chilean authorities to build a 42,500-tpy lithium carbonate plant in the South American country, although Chile’s government claimed that Albemarle lacked essential environmental information.

*All lithium carbonate, hydroxide and spodumene prices are available in our Battery Raw Materials Market Tracker.