About 5 per cent of lithium production is for lithium metal (3 000 tpa world wide) which is growing rapidly.
The plant has been mothballed following a fall in the world price of lithium.
Gwalia Consolidated Limited, at Greenbushes (near Nannup, south west of Western Australia) produces about 60 000 tonnes of the lithium mineral spodumene. It supplies about 60 per cent of the world market from its mine that has the highest grade and largest lithium mineral resource in the world. Spodumene production is valued about $12 million containing about 4 per cent lithium (or 7.5% sas Li2O equivalent to 2 thousand tonnes lithium metal).
Gwalia planned to manufacture about 5 000 tonnes of lithium carbonate in a plant costing $17.5m.
The process required about 5 000 tonnes of sodium carbonate. It is used to leach the lithium from the spodumene at 1 000°C which is then treated with carbon dioxide to form the soluble lithium bicarbonate. After filtration, the remaining solution is treated with sodium hydroxide to crystalise the lithium carbonate. The only significant waste not recycled is sodium alumino silicate (analcite).
With a turnover of about $28m, it would have supplied about 13 per cent of the world market estimated at 45 000 tonnes p.a. (valued at around A$300m at A$6 per kilogram). (About 4 per cent is made into the metal with world demand at around 250 tonnes).
See also the CIP seminar by its Managing Director.