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Albemarle estimates US$1.6B plant cost for Wodgina lithium joint venture

Mineral Resources Ltd. joint venture partner Albemarle Corp. pegged the estimated cost of the processing plant at the Wodgina lithium mine in Western Australia at US$1.6 billion, The West Australian reported Dec. 19.

Mineral Resources has not reported a cost estimate for the plant but had implied it may build an operation of a similar size for between US$900 million and US$1.2 billion.

Albemarle CEO Luke Kissam said the plant design Mineral Resources explored "wasn't going to be efficient from an operating standpoint," and the US$1.6 billion figure is "more prudent and closer to reality."

"Mineral Resources, to their great credit, has done a great job ... But they'd tell you the same thing. They've never built a lithium hydroxide plant, that's why they got us," Kissam said.

The plant will be built in two stages and is expected to begin production in 2022.

The companies recently signed a binding agreement for Albemarle to purchase a 50% stake in the project for US$1.15 billion. The deal is expected to close in 2019.