Jul 18, 2018

Lithium Australia kicks off battery cathode operation

Lithium Australia kicks off battery cathode operation

Perth-based Lithium Australia has achieved the first production of lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery cathode material from recommissioned pilot facilities in Brisbane.

The development comes via subsidiary VSPC (formerly Very Small Particle Company), whose technology is expected to assist Lithium Australia in its work to exploit used batteries as a source of the energy metal lithium.

Lithium Australia says international battery makers have previously shown strong interest in VSPC’s 4th-generation LFP cathode material.

The quality and consistency of VSPC’s pilot-production materials are being verified via on-site electrochemical testing facilities.

“VSPC gives Lithium Australia the opportunity to manufacture the world’s most advanced cathode materials – at the high-margin end of the battery metals market,” Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin said.

Inside the cathode production facility in Brisbane.

“Importantly, VSPC will also allow us to capitalise on waste batteries as a feed source. We anticipate immense pressure on the supply of energy metals such as lithium and cobalt in the near future.

“Battery recycling not only supports sustainability but may also, ultimately, prove the cheapest source of those energy metals materials in years to come. The ability to produce cathode powders from these materials, while also controlling particle size, is clearly advantageous. It is an integral part of our sustainable and ethical supply policy.”

Mr Griffin today spoke out against proposed Federal Government changes to research and development (R&D) funding, warning it could derail Australia’s opportunity to become an international anchor point in the $213 billion-plus new-era global battery market.

The R&D changes would likely stymie WA’s aspirations to establish something similar to Silicon Valley – a Lithium Valley for the battery industry, he said.

Lithium Australia managing director Adrian Griffin.

“Australia’s lithium industry risks being consigned to international backwaters if such an opportunity to become a global front-runner in the emerging battery technology race, is allowed to slip,” Mr Griffin said.

“The window for this opportunity is closing fast.

“If Australia shows initiative by providing R&D incentives for industry, we can capture an extra 12-27 per cent (an estimated extra A$25-57 billion) of the value of the lithium chain globally.

“But Australia will never get there unless the Federal Government removes its newly imposed cap, which limits research and development rebates within the lithium-related sector to $4 million a year maximum for development companies with less than $20 million a year in revenue.

“Previously, the rebates were open-ended for revenue-limited operations, which in reality, are the companies driving the current push to carve a greater space for Australia’s abundant ‘new energy’ resources [lithium, manganese, cobalt and rare earth metals] in a rapidly expanding global battery market.

“Ironically, while the Federal Government continues to allow open-ended R&D rebates for the biotech sector, if its proposed cuts prevail elsewhere, they will destroy any hope of establishing a locally-based Lithium Valley. “


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