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- The global move towards green energy sources and sustainable development has boosted the 2020 electric vehicle (EV) revolution.
- Lithium, Nickel and Cobalt are the main components of a Lithium-Ion battery that is used to fuel EVs.
- Australia is among the leading lithium suppliers of the world.
- Australia’s top five lithium projects roughly contain about 474.94 Mt of lithium reserves with significant grade.
The recent euphoria to become net carbon neutral by 2050 and boost sustainable development has enabled a shift towards green energy sources. This has further empowered the growth prospects of EVs, supporting Australia’s lithium projects.
The EV industry has registered tremendous growth in the past year with a significant increase in EV sales in Europe, China and the US. As per IEA's data, the number of electric cars jumped to 10 million in 2020 from about 2.1 million in 2019. As per a few market leaders, the industry is geared up to hit 21 million by 2030.
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The technological advancement primarily drove the dramatic EV revolution in the battery space, used as the powerhouse for EVs. Automakers were facing various challenges like lower mileage, longer charging time and less power in earlier EV models, but the introduction of Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIB) worked as a replaced organ for EVs and provided extra power with better mileage and shorter charging time.
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The notched demand has put extra pressure on lithium, nickel and cobalt mines which are considered the essential elements of LIBs. Notably, Australia is the leading producer of lithium which fulfils more than half of the world’s lithium demand.
Wodgina Lithium Project:
The Wodgina Lithium project is the biggest lithium project in Australia, with a total reserve capacity of 151.94Mt with a grade of 1.17% lithium oxide. The project is located on Port Hedland in WA. The project is jointly owned by Mineral Resources (ASX:MIN) and mining behemoth Albemarle Corporation.
Wodgina Lithium project is one of the largest hard rock lithium projects in the world. The JV is also advancing towards the construction of a spodumene concentrate plant. The project is expected to produce 75,000 dry tonnes of 6% spodumene concentrate per year.
Pilgangoora Lithium-Tantalum Project is fully owned by Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS). The project is located in the Pilbara region of WA and carries total reserves of 108.2Mt with a grade of 1.25% lithium oxide. The project now holds two processing plants, followed by the company’s acquisition of plant along with the surrounding operation in January 2021. \
Currently, mine can process 2Mtpa to produce 330,000 tpa of ~6% spodumene concentrate, but the proposed Stage 2 expansion would increase the capacity to 5Mtpa and processing to 800-850,000tpa.
Earl Grey Lithium Project:
The Earl Grey lithium project has total reserves of 94.2Mt with 1.5% lithium oxide. The project is located in Mt Holland, WA. The project was jointly owned by Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile and Kidman Resources under Covalent Lithium's banner.
After the acquisition of Kidman by Wesfarmers (ASX:WES) in September 2019, WES became the 50% owner of the Mt Holland lithium project. The project has a mine life of over 40 years, and Covalent expects to produce more than 340,000t of spodumene per year.
Greenbushes Lithium Project:
Greenbushes lithium project has a capacity of 86.4Mt reserves with a grade of 2.35% lithium oxide. The project is located in Greenbushes, WA and jointly operated by Talison Lithium, a subsidiary of Tianqi Lithium, a Chinese mining company. The project holds two processing plants, with the construction of the second plant completed in 2019.
The company plans for the construction of a third processing plant subjected to regulatory approvals. The project has a processing capacity of 1.34Mtpa of lithium concentrates.
Altura’s Pilgangoora Lithium Project:
Pilgangoora lithium project is fully owned by Altura Mining (ASX:AJM) and located in WA's Pilbara region. The project holds total reserves of 34.2Mt with a grade of 1.04% lithium oxide and a mine life of 13 years. The mine was planned in two phases, with the completion of the first phase in March 2019. Presently, the mine holds a production limit of 220,000tpa of high-quality spodumene concentrate. On 20 January 2021, Pilbara Minerals (ASX:PLS) announced the acquisition of the Altura Lithium Project with a cash payment of US$155 million.