Help wanted to build Bunbury lithium plant

Global chemicals giant Albemarle is asking WA businesses to step in to help build a giant lithium processing plant in the South West.

The US-headquartered company is stepping up engagement with local suppliers as the company targets a September construction start for its $1.3 billion Kemerton lithium project.

Albemarle and engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) contractor Wood Group will update suppliers at a WA Works Sundowner next week about work opportunities on the massive venture on the outskirts of Bunbury.

Edwin Berends, Albemarle’s Vice President, Engineering-Ore Concentrate to Lithium Salt Conversion, will provide businesses with an understanding of the scope and capability required to win work for the project.

The Sundowner follows a South West Development Commission industry briefing on Kemerton last month in Bunbury, which attracted more than 200 people.

Albemarle will rely heavily on CCI’s Industry Capability Network in securing the workers and supplies needed for the multi-year construction program.

The company has listed many Kemerton work packages on ICN Gateway and is keen to lock in contractors as soon as possible as it races to supply the booming demand for battery-quality lithium chemicals.

“We are hopeful that we will break ground in September,” an Albemarle spokeswoman said.

The massive construction effort will be overseen by Wood Group, which began seeking applications from Project Engineers two months ago to support the plan, based initially in its Perth Office and later onsite.

“We are very excited about the amount of interest our project has generated,” the spokeswoman said.

“One of the reasons we are investing in WA is the talent pool and access to qualified suppliers and contractors.

“We expect to create 300-500 jobs during construction and 500-plus during operations.”

Kemerton Stage One, which is subject to government approvals and a final investment decision, will feature a single processing train producing 20,000 tonnes per annum of lithium hydroxide.

But the project may eventually grow to five trains producing 100,000tpa of final product.

Initial production is scheduled to commence by 2020 and the proposal has an intended operating life of about 25 years.


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