Joint venture (JV) partners Tianqi Lithium Corporation and IGO have produced first lithium hydroxide at the Kwinana refinery in Western Australia.
Under the JV, IGO has a 49 per cent interest in the Kwinana refinery and a 25 per cent indirect interest in the Greenbushes lithium mine in Western Australia.
The milestone was achieved after the first production train was commissioned at Kwinana.
According to IGO, this involved the sequential commissioning of each individual unit from calcining, acid roasting, leaching, purification and crystallisation on a batch basis to create lithium hydroxide.
IGO will now focus on continuously operating the first production train rather than a batch basis, while also improving the lithium hydroxide’s quality to a battery grade.
“First production of lithium hydroxide is the first step of a journey but nevertheless represents a key milestone for the lithium JV,” IGO managing director Peter Bradford said.
“We are therefore delighted to have achieved this first important step in the commissioning of train one and to have done so ahead of the internal schedule developed earlier this year.
“We congratulate the Kwinana team on this milestone and their progress over the last few months.”
The company is anticipating a saleable product will be produced in the December 2021 quarter, while battery grade product will be produced in the March 2022 quarter.
IGO stated that the first production train will ramp up to a 24,000 tonne-per-annum production rate by the end of 2022.
“The strong demand being witnessed in the lithium market globally reinforces the strategic nature of Kwinana which, together with the lithium JV’s interest in the Greenbushes mine, is rapidly evolving into a globally significant, integrated lithium operation catering to the specific needs of premium lithium-ion battery manufacturers”.
IGO’s JV with Tianqi is valued at $US1.4 billion ($1.9 billion) with the deal closed in June.