Austvolt is on track to be Australia’s first commercial-scale precursor cathode active material (pCAM) manufacturer, making it a key player in the country’s rapidly growing lithium industry.
The pCAM, a high-value and specifically engineered substance comprising nickel, cobalt, and manganese, is amalgamated with lithium hydroxide to create the cathode material for lithium batteries.
Peeyush Mathur, Austvolt Founder and Managing Director, says the company aims to guarantee ethical sourcing and traceability, while helping drive Australia’s advanced manufacturing ambitions.
“Our long-term vision is to provide pCAM to a range of battery industry customers and continue to develop our product through ongoing research,” he says.
“Our plant will help fulfill the WA Government’s desire to build a battery downstream industry in WA.”
Primed for investment to scale up
The manufacturing plant is listed on WA Investments* where Austvolt is seeking $250-$500 million to scale up its pilot plant (800 tonnes per annum production capacity), followed by a full-scale plant with the capability to produce 40,000tpa.
Austvolt’s laboratory is currently based in Bentley but has secured a nine-hectare site at the Rockingham-Kwinana Strategic Industrial Area for the pilot and full-scale plants.
“We are currently producing Series A samples for our potential off-takers to test,” Mathur says.
“We are in the process of purchasing the equipment required to scale-up the laboratory to be able to produce Series B samples. These samples will enable larger scale testing by the off-takers. The aim is to commission Series B equipment by the end of 2023.
“The next stage will be to build a pilot plant at the Kwinana site which is planned to be completed in Q1 2025.”
The final stage is to build and commission the full-scale production plant, targeted for completion in 2027. The full-scale plant is expected to employ 40-50 operational and support roles.
Mathur says Australia’s rich sources of critical minerals will enable nickel, cobalt and manganese to be sourced locally.
“Nickel, which makes up 80-90% of the pCAM, is mined by BHP and processed at their plant in Kwinana adjacent to land allocated to Austvolt,” he says.
Dr Mike Nahan, Austvolt Chairman, says the site – which was allocated in June 2023 – “signifies the trust and confidence the State Government has in Austvolt’s capabilities and its dedication to sustainable energy solutions”.
“We believe this development will bring immense value to the region, driving economic growth and fostering innovation,” he says.
Ready to tackle challenges
Mathur says Austvolt has faced multiple challenges, including reassuring investors that WA has much more to offer than its high-profile and lucrative mining industry, and developing technical capacity to compete in such a rapidly changing and specialised industry.
As the project develops, he anticipates other challenges will arise and is poised to mitigate them.
“WA has a large pool of skilled labour, however, the labour market is very tight at the moment and we continue to address this as we expand,” he says.
“Any disruptions in raw material supply will be mitigated through long-term supply contracts and possible vertical integration.
“Fluctuating input material prices will be managed through long-term contracts with off-takers linked to raw materials costs.”
Given the project’s input materials are available locally, Mathur says transportation costs will be minimised, giving the business a price competitive advantage.
“The plant will be as automated as much as possible to minimise labour costs. Labour costs will only make up about 1% of our operating costs so they won’t drive down our competitiveness,” he says.
“And our customers will demand high levels of product consistency. In designing the plant, achieving product consistency will be a major driver.”
*WA Investments is a collaboration between CCIWA and Invest and Trade WA.
If you are looking for opportunities in business, investment or trade, visit WA Investments.