Wesfarmers defers lithium project investment decision

The Mount Holland project in Western Australia. (Image: Kidman Resources)

Australia’s Wesfarmers Ltd has delayed its final investment decision on the Mt Holland lithium project to the first quarter of 2021, it said on Thursday, as it focuses on cost-cutting amid weakening prices of the metal.

The decision follows a review in November of a feasibility study run by Covalent Lithium, a joint venture between Wesfarmers and Sociedad Quimica y Minera de Chile SA, one of the world’s largest producers of lithium products.

Wesfarmers Managing Director Rob Scott said in a statement that the deferral would help to optimise project design, leading to a clearer decision-making process next year.

“Once completed, the project is expected to play an important role in the global lithium hydroxide market”

Wesfarmers Managing Director

“Once completed, the project is expected to play an important role in the global lithium hydroxide market, with a long-term outlook that remains attractive,” he said.

Australian lithium miners faced severe pressure last year from plummeting prices of the metal, as demand from Chinese customers fell after a cut in the country’s electric vehicle subsidies amid Sino-U.S. global trade tensions.

In May last year retail conglomerate Wesfarmers acquired the now de-listed Kidman Resources, deepening its exposure to high-tech minerals, and bought a 50% stake in the Mt Holland project as a part of the acquisition.

Earlier in the day, another Australia-based lithium miner Galaxy Resources said it would scale back operations by about 60% at its flagship Mt Cattlin mine in 2020, focusing on cost reduction.

(By Shruti Sonal; Editing by Jan Harvey)

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