Batteries are used to power electric light tram services © Getty Images
Batteries are used to power electric light tram services © Getty Images

Australia plans first battery plant to boost domestic resilience

Australia announced its first commercial lithium-ion battery production plant as part of plans to make a sustainable critical minerals supply chain.

Battery manufacturer Energy Renaissance will begin construction on the $70m factory in April, producing batteries for electricity grids, renewables, mining electrification and public transport.

The plant will buy domestic supplies of nickel, cobalt, manganese, graphite, lithium, aluminium and copper to make its batteries.

The government said this marked the start of its Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Processing Plan Pathway, a modern manufacturing strategy investing $1.5bn to boost the country's rare earth metals supply chain and reduce reliance on overseas processing facilities. 

Prime minister Scott Morrison said the cash, announced last October, would mainly go towards "critical minerals processing – making the batteries that will power the world's economy into the future".

Karen Andrews, minister for industry, science and technology, said  Australia had a long history of mining materials but they were usually processed overseas.

As a result, "an extraordinary amount of money is paid to purchase that material back in a different form". 

She said: "We have incredible stores of lithium. At the moment, we aren't processing that to any great extent here in Australia. But we want to make sure that, through our critical minerals processing roadmap, that we are setting a pathway where Australia can recover the maximum amount of lithium."

Mark Chilcote, MD of Energy Renaissance, said: “Australia cannot afford to be at the end of a queue for these minerals. We're very interested in working with both industry and government in proving that supply chain and being a catalyst for it.” 

He added that there is currently “no commercial production of battery-grade materials and chemicals”, despite access to 100% of mined raw materials.

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