Lithium Processing Plant

WA is home to the world’s most accessible new energy metals, such as lithium and rare earths—metals that are essential in energy storage devices. The American company Albemarle is planning to invest over $1 billion to construct a lithium-processing plant in Kemerton in my electorate of Forrest. I understand that this is the company’s first investment in Australia. There was a lot of genuine support at a recent community meeting held in Australind, close to Kemerton, particularly from those who want a job and from businesses that will be suppliers or contractors to the project both during the construction process and when the plant is operational.

The plant will process high-grade spodumene ore from the Talison mine at Greenbushes, in the South West, to produce lithium hydroxide product. Through this mine, there is an absolutely reliable supply for 20 to 25 years. The lithium industry in Western Australia now is very much reminiscent of the beginnings of the aluminium industry in Western Australia.

This is a very sound project. We will see between 300 and 500 jobs—local jobs, which is what this government is focused on—during construction and another 500 when the plant is at full production. That’s 100 per processing chain on-site, and they will have five of those processing chains when the project gets to the full processing capability.

This is a great project for Western Australia, most importantly in my electorate. It’s also important to have lithium being produced for the purposes that it is. It’s a critical component to consumer products such as high-strength glass used in mobile devices, synthetic rubber in ties and shoelaces, ceramics on stoves and cooktops, and lubricants for industrial applications and pharmaceuticals. There are so many options.

It’s a great thing for my South West region, particularly in the jobs space. Albermarle will have access to a skilled workforce in my South West region and also have training options through South Regional TAFE.

WA is actually the centre for lithium in Australia. We’re going to see a greater development of opportunities and secondary processing opportunities from this industry. What I do want to see, though, is a container port developed in Bunbury to be able to manage the demand and the opportunities through this new industry. That will be very good for the WA and Australian economies.