Wesfarmers to proceed with $1.8 billion lithium project JV with SQM

Australian retail and industrials conglomerate Wesfarmers has confirmed it will proceed with a US$1.8 billion joint venture (JV) investment in the Mt Holland lithium project in Western Australia.

Wesfarmers has committed to developing the mine and its associated Kwinana refinery in partnership with Chilean chemical giant Sociedad Química y Minera de Chile (SQM).

The two businesses formed a JV company – Covalent Lithium, which has completed a feasibility study on the mine, determining its annual production capacity of 50,000 tonnes of battery-grade lithium hydroxide.

The 50:50 investment in the project from both partners will be committed upon receiving environmental approvals for the Kwinana refinery in 2022. First production is expected in the second half of 2024.

Wesfarmers managing director Rob Scott said: “The development of the Mt Holland lithium project presents an attractive investment for Wesfarmers shareholders.”

“The project capitalises on our chemicals, energy and fertilisers divisions’ chemical processing expertise and Western Australia’s unique position to support growing global demand for electric vehicle battery materials which will make a crucial contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“We have been pleased with progress of discussions with key battery manufacturers, which reflect a positive outlook for battery quality sustainably sourced lithium hydroxide.”