China’s Tianqi Lithium Corp is exploring investment opportunities in Australia’s burgeoning battery minerals sector through its local tie up with Western Australia-based (WA) miner IGO Ltd, its chief executive said.
Australia is seeking overseas investment into its critical materials industry as it seeks to become a green energy superpower, although Treasurer Jim Chalmers said last month it would be “more assertive” on who it lets make those investments.
“WA already export(s) all the minerals needed to make batteries. There is enormous environmental and economic benefit in successfully developing downstream processing capabilities near the source of those resources,” Tianqi CEO Frank Ha said in a statement late on Tuesday. “We have a very clear desire not only to grow our operations but to be part of the Western Australian community.”
Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia (TLEA), its tie-up with IGO, owns the Kwinana Lithium Hydroxide plant in Western Australia and is majority shareholder in the Talison Lithium mine Greenbushes.
It already operates three lithium processing plants and the Cuola mine in Sichuan.
Direct investment or joint venture options would be considered to achieve the next phase of the companies’ strategic growth ambitions, he said. He did not mention how much money the company was looking to invest.
PWC estimates Australia’s critical minerals sector with a value-adding supply chain could be worth more than $40 billion to the Australian economy by 2035 and create up to 4,500 jobs a year.
State premier Mark McGowan said Tianqi Lithium had his government’s support.
“It is a priority for the McGowan Government to support Western Australia’s participation and growth in global battery and critical mineral supply chains – with the primary goal of increasing domestic value-add manufacturing.”
The state government also said it would slash approval timeframes for green energy projects, investing A$22.5 million ($15 million) to overhaul its environmental approval process.
($1 = 1.4941 Australian dollars)
(By Melanie Burton; Editing by Lincoln Feast)