WA Government Establishes Lithium Strategy Taskforce

COMMODITY CAPERS: The Western Australian State Labor Government showed it is prepared to listen to the mining sector with the announcement of a Taskforce to develop a Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy in consultation with an industry stakeholder reference group.

Western Australia-based mining lobby group the Association of Mining & Exploration Companies (AMEC) was one to the first with a friendly greeting to WA Premier Mark Mc Gowan’s announcement.

AMEC has released a couple of reports on the subject this year that have obviously resonated with the Premier and his Cabinet, which has responded by looking to develop a strategy to create a world-leading lithium and energy material industry in WA and, subsequently, the creation of some long-term employment opportunities.

The State Government has committed to facilitating the processing of lithium and other energy materials in WA in a bid to capitalise on the global demand for lithium batteries and WA’s large deposits of lithium and energy materials.

Lithium has quickly become a Western Australia story with the state currently mining over 60 per cent of the world’s supply of lithium, as well as being endowed with all the other minerals necessary to develop further down the battery minerals value chain.

In its A Path Forward report, AMEC estimated there to be a two-year window before the global battery supply chain solidifies.

The report outlined several recommendations for the Federal and State Government that will position Australia to take advantage of this once in a generation opportunity.

AMEC said the State Government’s announcement has delivered on the report’s first recommendation: leadership.

“The State Government has stepped up to clearly signal that WA is open for business and determined to play a much larger role in the lithium and battery minerals value chain,” AMEC chief executive officer Warren Pearce said.

“Today’s announcement is an important step to take leadership in a key global growth industry.

“A Ministerial taskforce will provide co-ordination for the multiple government departments that will be critical in planning and approvals.

“They will have a key role in ensuring there are no regulatory hurdles that slow the development of this new industry.

“Our Association looks forwards to engaging with the Stakeholder Reference Group and representing the views of emerging battery mineral producers and explorers.”

The WA Government said it was establishing the taskforce to capitalise on the state’s immense potential to produce and process lithium and other energy materials, signalling its thinking that there is plenty of potential to increase downstream processing of lithium and other energy materials.

The development of the Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy will consider how to build on WA’s competitive advantages, and to develop a world-leading energy materials industry that maximises benefits.

“The availability of lithium and other energy materials in Western Australia creates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our State,” West Australia premier Mark McGowan said.

“My Government is committed to the development of this industry to boost our economy and create long-term jobs for Western Australians.

“’The taskforce will do the work, in consultation with industry, to ensure our State is front and centre in production of battery technologies, and will also work to make sure these materials can be processed here in WA to maximise local jobs.”

The Taskforce is to be chaired by WA Minister for Mines and Petroleum Bill Johnston and will consist of senior government representatives.

The taskforce will engage with key companies and will be informed by an industry stakeholder reference group.

It is expected the taskforce will present recommendations to the State Government in November with recommendations of how Western Australia should respond to the battery minerals opportunity.

“Lithium-ion batteries are among the most popular batteries in use today,” WA Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said.

“Western Australia possesses all the elements required to produce these batteries such as lithium, nickel, graphite and cobalt, meaning we are in the box seat to capitalise on the growth of this industry.

“This isn’t just about extracting resources from the ground. It’s also about processing them here in WA to create jobs for Western Australians.

“We are determined to make the most of the opportunity, and the taskforce will set out a clear plan to establish Western Australia as a world leader in this industry.”

As part of the State Budget, the Government announced $5.5 million in provisional funding to the Minerals Research Institute of Western Australia (MRIWA), to support development and manufacturing of technology metals and renewable energy sources.

MRIWA will invest the funds, if successful, in its bid to establish a New Energy Industry Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in WA.

The New Energy Industry CRC’s objective will be to create value, through industry-led research, and drive global demand for local products, services and solutions.

“The Lithium and Energy Materials Strategy is needed to attract international companies that hold the necessary technology to undertake further battery mineral precursor development,” Warren Pearce said.

“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, the sort WA hasn’t seen since iron ore in the 1960s – today’s announcement is a first step to positioning ourselves to work our way further down the value chain.”