The MARBL Lithium Joint Venture created by the two parties will manage operations of both the Wodgina lithium mine and the Kemerton conversion trains


Operations at the Wodgina lithium mine. Photo: courtesy of Mineral Resources.

Albemarle and Mineral Resources Limited (MRL) have closed a $1.3bn deal to create the MARBL Lithium Joint Venture to operate the Wodgina lithium mine in Australia.

The 60:40 lithium joint venture between the US specialty chemicals company Albemarle and Australian mining services company Mineral Resources has been finalised following approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) in Australia.

The two parties entered into the joint venture deal in December 2018, which was amended subsequently in July 2019.

The amendment was made to enable Albemarle acquire a stake of 60% instead of the originally agreed 50% in the Wodgina lithium mine. In line with that, the consideration had been increased from $1.15bn to $1.3bn.

The total consideration comprises a cash payment of $820m from Albemarle plus transfer of a 40% interest to MRL in two 25 ktpa lithium hydroxide conversion trains being built by the former at Kemerton in Western Australia.

The MARBL Lithium Joint Venture will manage operations of both the Wodgina lithium mine and the Kemerton conversion trains. As per the terms of the deal, Albemarle will commercialise 100% of the output from the Wodgina lithium mine and the Kemerton lithium hydroxide conversion trains.

The Wodgina lithium mine has an estimated 30 years of mine life

MARBL will look to develop an integrated lithium hydroxide operation at the Wodgina lithium mine to extract spodumene concentrate and lithium hydroxide. The hard rock lithium mine is projected to have a mine life of more than 30 years.

According to Albemarle, the 50ktpa lithium hydroxide conversion capacity at Kemerton will have stage-wise commissioning, which will begin from the first half of 2021.

Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said: “We are pleased to announce the formation of this joint venture with Mineral Resources. Over the past year, we have worked closely together and are even more confident that our investment will produce substantial, long-term value.

“In the short term, we have made the prudent decision to idle mine activity until market conditions improve, but we are well positioned for future growth given the high-quality Wodgina resource and the combined operating expertise of both companies.”