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.