Metso has won a contract to supply equipment for a new A$1bn ($709.4m) lithium hydroxide processing plant at Albemarle Corporation’s Kemerton site near Bunbury in South Western Australia.


Image: The Greenbushes mine will supply lithium concentrate to Albemarle's processing plant. Photo: courtesy of Metso Corporation.

To be constructed within a site area of around 90ha within the Kemerton Strategic Industrial Area (KSIA) located approximately 17km north east of Bunbury, the plant will be equipped to process spodumene ore (containing 6% lithium oxide) and produce lithium hydroxide product and a sodium sulfate by-product.

Construction on the lithium hydroxide processing plant commenced in January month with production scheduled to commence in 2021.

Under the contract, Metso will supply pyro-processing and comminution equipment that includes calciner and acid roaster systems, ball mills, off-gas handling systems in addition to other auxiliaries.

Metso’s pyro-processing technology is designed to deliver high lithium recovery with low fuel consumption.

Equipment deliveries are expected to begin in the second half of this year.

Metso Australian market area senior vice-president Ross Wotherspoon said: “We are very pleased to be playing such an important role in Albemarle’s plans as it races to supply booming world demand for battery-quality lithium chemicals.

“Critical to the success of this project is the combined knowledge and experience of our people and Australian-based suppliers and subcontractors who are engaged to deliver major components of this important contract.”

Initially, the plant will comprise three production trains. Each train will have capacity to produce 20,000 tons per annum (tpa) of lithium hydroxide.

There is a potential to expand to five trains to increase the production of premium battery grade lithium hydroxide to 100,000tpa by around 2025.

The plant will receive spodumene ore from Talison Mine at Greenbushes. It is expected to create 500 construction jobs and another 500 jobs in the south-west.

Metso Mining Equipment business president Victor Tapia said: “Lithium projects are on the increase, and at Metso we have diversified our solutions and services to meet this growing demand.”

Western Australia Premier Mark McGowan earlier said: “With up to 1,000 local jobs being created, this project will be a huge economic boost for the South-West region and will show the capability Western Australia has in the lithium-ion battery sector.”