Lithium has been at the forefront of several important technological changes over the past three decades. The commercialisation of the lithium-ion battery in the 1990s enabled the mobile phone revolution and the smartphone and tablet industry of the late 2000s. With minimal technological development, the same batteries now underpin a new emphasis on energy storage capabilities, consumer electronics, and the global shift towards electric vehicles (EVs).
Australia is well positioned to capitalise on the significant opportunities presented by the lithiumion battery era. Australia has the world’s third-largest reserves of lithium and is the largest producer of hard-rock lithium spodumene — the largest lithium spodumene asset in the world is the Greenbushes project in Western Australia.
Australia currently produces nine of the 10 mineral elements required to produce most lithium-ion battery anodes and cathodes, and has commercial reserves of graphite – the remaining element. Australia also has secure access to all of the chemicals required for lithium-ion battery production.
In addition to resource deposits, Australia has competitive supply-chain advantages. Australia’s rail and port infrastructure links relevant regions of mineral production to global markets. This supports both a production capability that can supply raw and refined materials to global markets and enables efficient domestic processing and manufacturing of finished products for global markets. Australia also has world-leading expertise in resource extraction and processing, high-tech engineering and renewables research.
Australia is a highly attractive destination for foreign investment in new economy opportunities. Australia has competitive advantages across the full spectrum of technical, capital allocation, and risk considerations, including political and economic stability, technology, training, research and development, environmental and labour standards, and legal and regulatory certainty.
Accelerating global demand presents Australia with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transition into a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub for lithium-ion batteries. Currently most of Australia’s spodumene in the form of concentrate is exported to China for processing, before being then sent to Japan and Korea, where it is transformed into battery packs. These finished products are ultimately imported into Australia and other countries for a range of commercial energy-storage applications as well as consumer goods.
This report demonstrates the critical components in advanced battery production — precursor, anode, cathode, electrolyte — can be manufactured in Australia. Battery manufacturing technology central to downstream lithium processing therefore stands as the critical gap in the Australian supply chain.
Australia could host the entire production chain with investment from one of the world’s patented battery cell manufacturers.
This report also provides an assessment of the competitive advantages Australia offers for investment in downstream processing of commodities and the local development of the lithium-ion battery supply chain. It also highlights the Australian Government’s support for building economies of scale for products of emerging global significance and technological application that leverage Australia’s competitive advantages in natural resources, processing, infrastructure, advanced manufacturing, and technology.