xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' The Font of Noelage: November 2018

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

A lithium battery industry for Western Australia.Why not?

Western Australia, like the rest of the world,  is experiencing a lithium boom. Lithium is an essential ingredient in battery production,  Renewable energy requires battery storage. The price of petrol is causing a surge in the production of electric cars that require lithium storage batteries. Anyone who bought an Apple product this year is using a lithium battery. Lithium has been called the petroleum of the future.

Western Australia has about 50% of the world’s known reserves of lithium. Imagine how happy we all would be if we had fifty per cent of the world's petroleum reserves. We are sitting on a treasure chest. Two years ago, WA had one lithium mine, at Greenbushes. It is the biggest lithium mine in the world. Earlier this month WA’s seventh lithium mine was opened, just south of Port Hedland.

Economists are predicting a billion-dollar windfall for Western Australia as a lithium exporter. Canberra correspondent, Nick Evans, (The West Australian, October 2) quotes Mark Scully, Chief Economist of the Department of Industry, saying that at present “Lithium exports for about $1100/tonne and processed lithium concentrate exports for about $23 000/tonne”. Quite a mark-up. No wonder that the state government is exploring ways of processing lithium and other energy materials. In 2017 lithium sales were worth $780 million with a workforce of 1200. These numbers will escalate exponentially as lithium processing develops. Some commentators forecast a $58 billion shot in the arm tot he WA economy from lithium mining by the mid 2020s.

Perhaps the government should also pursue ways of establishing a battery manufacturing industry in WA. For fifty odd years we have blown up our mountains of iron ore and sold it overseas for around $100 /tonne. The countries who bought our iron ore  turned it into steel and sold back to us as motor vehicles and various manufactured goods for about $1000/tonne. Again, quite a mark up.

About forty years ago some intrepid, risk taking individuals started up a ship building industry at Henderson, south of Fremantle. Henderson is a huge success story, building ships for the Australian Defence Force and selling ships to many overseas counties.

Do we not have people with the wit, the will, the expertise and the energy to establish a storage battery industry in WA. We not only have half of the world’s lithium, we also have good supplies of every other metal required for battery production; cobalt, manganese, vanadium, nickel, copper, tin and rare earth.

I am sure there will be those who say it cannot be done. Just as they told C.Y.O’Connor that he could not pump water 350 miles uphill. It was George Bernard Shaw who said, “Some people see things as they are and ask why? I see things that never were and ask why not?

A storage battery industry in WA. Why not?