Lithium Australia Boss Laments Lack of Government Foresight

COMMODITY CAPERS: Lithium Australia (ASX: LIT) managing director Adrian Griffin launched a stinging criticism of the lack of government support for the emerging Australian lithium industry.

Griffin has never been one to waste words when getting a point across and he took aim at a government he – and others – see to be missing a great opportunity for the country.

That opportunity being the development – in country – of technologies to produce lithium concentrates to export as the essential additive to the battery industry and make the country richer than it currently is.

Griffin intimated that there is currently plenty of interest in the battery technologies being developed by Lithium Australia from industry players internationally.

Unlike the company’s home country, he said many of these jurisdictions sitting beyond our sea-girt shores are encouraging Lithium Australia to consider opportunities within their own regions, where governments are prioritising the development of such technologies as a key focus of next-generation economic growth.

“Unfortunately, although Lithium Australia is at the forefront of next-gen battery technology and supply sources, it has not received the same encouragement from within Australia, where its governing bodies, while voicing enthusiastic support for mooted downstream lithium processing, are in reality allowing the country to lag behind international competitors – despite the natural advantages Australia enjoys with its rich endowment of lithium and other battery elements,” Griffin said.

“Australia’s federal government in particular has significantly reduced R&D rebates, now capped at $4 million per annum for all but the biotech industry, which will continue to enjoy open-ended rebates for the purposes of conducting clinical trials.

“Is this anomalous, in that pilot testing and product endorsement within the metallurgical industry in many ways mimic clinical trial processes for biotech products?

“Lithium Australia has, for example, initiated similar procedures to secure product endorsement of the advanced cathode powders being produced at its VSPC plant in Brisbane, Australia.

“As it stands then, the federal government’s R&D policy would provide biotech companies with an open-ended rebate for clinical trials of lithium carbonate (an accepted treatment for certain medical conditions but also a precursor to the manufacture of lithium-ion battery cathodes) but not Lithium Australia for trials of the same product for other applications.”