Australia is a top source of lithium for EV batteries. Much of the world’s lithium used for such purposes comes from there. Now we’ve got news of a major lithium mine in Australia using batteries as well as solar and wind energy in order to mine more cleanly and — importantly for the miners — off the grid.
The Kathleen Valley Lithium Project, which will be a source of much spodumene concentrate for the battery industry, is going to be powered mostly by renewable energy and batteries, reportedly by what will be the largest such off-grid power station for a mining operation in Australia. It will have a power capacity of 95 megawatts (MW). That will come from five 6-MW wind turbines (30 MW), 16 MW of solar PV panels, and 17 MW/19 MWh of battery storage. That doesn’t add up to 95 MW, that’s correct — because the off-grid power system also includes some dirty energy sources — 27 MW of fossil gas power capacity and 5 MW of backup diesel capacity.
While there is indeed fossil fuel generation incorporated into the project, the aim is for the power project to run in “engine off” mode much of the time.
Liontown Resources is the mine developer, while Zenith Energy is the company that will build and supply the renewable energy to the project site. Apparently, Liontown Resources granted Zenith Energy the rights for this a whole 15 years ago.
Ford signed an offtake agreement earlier this year for the spodumene concentrate for “up to 150,000 dry metric tonnes per annum for an initial term of 5 years from the commencement of commercial production” — but the spodumene concentrate will also be refined into lithium hydroxide elsewhere before making its way into Ford EV batteries. Ford also provided a $300 million debt facility for financing of the project.
“Ford continues working to source more deeply into the battery supply chain to meet our goals of delivering more than 2 million EVs annually for our customers by 2026,” Ford’s vice president of EV Industrialization, Lisa Drake, stated. “This is one of several agreements we’re working on to help us secure raw materials to support our plan to deliver EVs for customers around the world and meet our environmental, social and governance commitments.”
Tesla and LG Energy Solution (formerly LG Chem) are other customers who have agreed to buy spodumene concentrate from the Kathleen Valley Lithium Project. The total dry metric tonnes (DMT) these three companies agreed to offtake from the lithium mining project annually are as follows:
- Ford — 150,000 DMT
- LG — 150,000 DMT
- Tesla — 100,000 DMT in the first year, growing to 150,000 in subsequent years.
Altogether, these offtake agreements amount to about 90% of the project’s initial spodumene concentrate production capacity (~500,000 DMT a year).
The mine is expected to be operational for more than 20 years. Production of the spodumene concentrate is expected to begin in the third quarter of 2024.
Zenith Energy has more than 400 MW of power capacity in place across Australia, indicating that Zenith Energy should be plenty capable of developing such a project but also that this will represent a massive increase in the extent of its projects. “Zenith Energy is proud to continue to play a lead role in the energy transition and to provide our partners with a glide path to net zero,” said Zenith Energy Managing Director, Hamish Moffat. Zenith Energy just purchased Peel Renewable Energy as well, which gave it ownership of the Peel Renewable Microgrid in Western Australia. That microgrid powers Peel Business Park near Perth.
Featured image courtesy of Liontown Resources
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