“It is remarkable that we now have investors talking to us about every part of the value chain,” including battery manufacturing, Johnston said.
Western Australia is the country’s biggest mining state, with iron ore its top export. It is also the world’s biggest exporter of lithium, mostly through the sale of hard rock ore to China.
Earlier this year, Chinese lithium producer Tianqi Lithium Corp. opened the country’s first onshore lithium refinery near Perth, in a joint venture with local miner IGO Ltd. US lithium giant Albermarle Corp. and Australian conglomerate Wesfarmers Ltd. are also building refineries.
Australia exported 247,000 tons of lithium carbonate equivalent last year, almost all of it from Western Australia, according to government figures. But so far there has been little investment in battery manufacturing.