The first saleable product from the Australian lithium hydroxide refinery is anticipated to be produced in the December 2021 quarter


Kwinana plant is the first lithium hydroxide facility in Australia.(Credit: Dominik Vanyi/Unsplash)

IGO and Tianqi Lithium have produced the first lithium hydroxide chemical product at their refinery in Kwinana in Western Australia.

According to IGO, the Kwinana plant is the first lithium hydroxide facility in Australia.

The Australian mining and exploration company has a stake of 49% in the joint venture (JV) that owns the refinery, while the remaining 51% stake is owned by China-based Tianqi Lithium.

The joint venture was created in late June 2021. Through the lithium joint venture, IGO has an indirect interest of 25% in the Greenbushes lithium mine.

IGO said that commissioning of the first production unit, Train 1, at the refinery has moved ahead at pace over recent months.

As part of the programme, the partners had hot commissioned all the individual unit processes at the refinery. This was done sequentially from calcining, acid roasting, leaching, purification and crystallisation on a batch basis, which resulted in the production of the first lithium hydroxide chemical.

IGO said that the partners will now focus on making Train 1 operate on a continuous, rather than batch basis.

Besides, the joint venture will work on enhancing product quality progressively to a battery grade product for its offtake customers.

The first saleable product from the lithium hydroxide facility is expected to be produced in the December 2021 quarter.

IGO said that battery grade product for customer accreditation will be produced in the March 2022 quarter.

Following the milestone, Train 1 is anticipated to ramp up gradually to the design production rate of 24 kilo tonnes per annum (ktpa) lithium hydroxide by the end of next month.

IGO managing director and CEO Peter Bradford said: “The strong demand being witnessed in the lithium market globally reinforces the strategic nature of Kwinana which, together with the Lithium JV’s interest in the Greenbushes mine, is rapidly evolving into a globally significant, integrated lithium operation catering to the specific needs of premium lithium-ion battery manufacturers.”

Last week, IGO revealed that it is in talks to acquire nickel miner Western Areas, explorer of nickel assets at Forrestania and Cosmos in Western Australia.