Tianqi Lithium Energy Australia, a joint venture (JV) between IGO and Tianqi Lithium, has produced the first battery grade lithium hydroxide (LiOH) at its refinery in Kwinana in Western Australia.

IGO said that based on onsite laboratory tests, the JV has produced battery grade lithium hydroxide successfully and consistently over several days.

The Australian mining and exploration company said that the product samples have been verified independently.

IGO said that the process for product qualification with offtake customers will begin.

The Australian company has a stake of 49% in the JV, while the remaining 51% stake is owned by Tianqi Lithium, a Chinese mining and manufacturing company.

Through the lithium JV created in 2021, IGO has an indirect stake of 25% in the Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia.

IGO managing director and CEO Peter Bradford said: “We are delighted to announce this important achievement and we congratulate the joint venture team for their focus and professionalism through the progressive commissioning and trial production of Train 1 at Kwinana and the delivery of this important milestone.

“Vertical integration into downstream processing is a key plank in IGO’s strategy and we are proud to be involved in the first production of lithium hydroxide in commercial quantities in Australia.

“The joint venture’s interest in both the upstream mining asset at Greenbushes and the downstream refinery at Kwinana is emerging as a globally significant, integrated lithium business.”

The lithium hydroxide produced at the Kwinana refinery will be exported outside Australia. It will be used in the production of high energy density batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) as well as energy storage systems.

The refinery has a workforce of 200 and is anticipated to reach commercial production in the coming months after achieving product qualification. It has a nameplate capacity of 24,000 tonnes per annum.

Western Australia Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said: “This is not only a significant milestone for the joint venture, but also for Western Australia, and it is proof of the battery-grade materials we can produce locally.

“Tianqi’s first-of-its-kind lithium hydroxide plant demonstrates Western Australia’s capacity for downstream processing in the battery value chain.”