US chemicals company Albermarle has signed an exclusivity agreement to create a potential lithium joint venture in Western Australia.
Albemarle said the agreement with Mineral Resources Limited (MRL) could lead to the creation of a 50-50 joint venture to own and operate the Wodgina hard rock lithium mine in the state’s Pilbara region— and “ultimately develop an integrated lithium hydroxide operation at the site”.
The purchase price for Albemarle’s 50% interest in the business would be US$1.15 billion, which Albemarle expects to fund with available cash and new credit facilities.
Under the terms of the agreement, after construction and ramp-up of a spodumene concentration plant, the joint venture would be expected to produce up to 750 kilo tonnes per annum (ktpa) of 6% spodumene concentrate from Wodgina, which is planned to be used as feedstock to a future lithium hydroxide plant.
The partners would jointly fund, design, build and operate a lithium hydroxide plant in stages at Wodgina. The first stage, once fully commissioned, is expected to produce at least 50ktpa of battery grade lithium hydroxide.
Wodgina is a “world-class hard rock lithium deposit, with an estimated mine life of over 30 years”, Albemarle said.
The proposed joint venture “remains subject to negotiation of definitive documents”. If the move is successful, Albemarle will manage the marketing and sales of lithium hydroxide produced by the enterprise.