Australia must not squander the “once-in-a-generation” opportunity presented by the booming demand for lithium-ion batteries and should build a dedicated manufacturing sector instead of sending the nation’s vast amounts of locally mined lithium offshore, federal government ministers have said.
The Morrison government on Tuesday released an Austrade report on lithium – a key ingredient in lithium-ion batteries, which are used in electric vehicles, electronic devices like mobile phones and laptop computers, and to store renewable energy.
Australia is well-positioned to capitalise on the “lithium-ion battery era”, the report said. Australia has the third-largest reserves of lithium in the world and is the largest producer of hard-rock lithium spodumene.
“At the moment Australia produces about half of the world’s lithium, but once it’s mined out of the ground, it’s shipped offshore, with all of the value-creation activities such as processing and battery manufacturing occurring overseas,” Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said. “Now is the time to accelerate the development of a high-tech lithium manufacturing sector in our own backyard.”
According to the Austrade report, Australian mineral reserves cover 90 per cent of the elements required in lithium-ion battery chemistry, but earns just 0.53 per cent of the ultimate value of its exported ore.
“With growing global demand for lithium-ion batteries, this report recognises that Australia has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform into a major processing, manufacturing and trading hub for lithium-ion batteries,” Mr Birmingham said.
Resources Minister Matthew Canavan said it was time Australia took advantage of the booming lithium industry.
Federal Labor has also promised that a Shorten Labor government, if elected, would “supercharge” Australia’s battery metal manufacturing industry to support manufacturing jobs and a clean energy future.
In October, Labor said there was no reason why Australian manufacturing workers could not refine more battery metals and manufacture batteries locally. “We can be a country that makes more things,” it said.
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